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The Recovery Act’s Best-Kept Secret

A little-known component of last year’s Recovery Act is helping to place some 180,000 unemployed individuals in subsidized jobs across the country. But the program — and almost all of those jobs — will disappear soon unless Congress acts.

It’s called the TANF Emergency Fund, and it has a highly successful track record of placing low-income parents and youth who would otherwise be unemployed into paid jobs in the private and public sectors.

More than 30 states, led by governors of both parties, have created jobs programs using the fund (see map), which has also drawn broad praise from policy experts.

Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi said his state’s jobs program provides “much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities.”

As Barbour’s statement suggests, these state programs are boosting local economies. They’re especially helpful for small businesses (we’ve collected some examples here), enabling them to proceed with planned expansions, rehire laid-off employees, or just get off the ground despite the recession.

But the fund is set to expire September 30, and states plan to begin scaling back their programs soon if Congress doesn’t extend it.

It makes no sense to shut down effective jobs programs at a time when unemployment is expected to remain high. Back in March, the House approved a one-year extension of the emergency fund. That extension should be part of the next jobs bill Congress passes.