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Press Release: 26,000 Illinois Jobs to Disappear on September 30 if U.S. Senate Fails to Extend TANF Emergency Fund

Local Employee Speaks to Importance of Program

As many as 26,000 workers in Illinois could lose their jobs this month if the Senate fails to extend federal funding that allowed the state to create Put Illinois to Work, a highly successful program that subsidizes private- and public-sector jobs for unemployed parents and youth, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Put Illinois to Work uses federal dollars provided through the TANF Emergency Fund, which President Obama and Congress created in last year’s Recovery Act, to create subsidized jobs for low-income Illinois residents with children who otherwise would be unemployed. Most of the job placements are with private-sector employers. Even though the program did not start until this past April, it has placed more than twice as many people as originally planned, making it the nation’s largest year-round subsidized employment program.

One of the workers who will lose her job if the fund is not extended is Sheena Howard, a single mother who had been seeking work for three years until she was hired in June by a small, Chicago accounting firm. The firm, Benford, Brown & Associates, was in dire need of office and customer service support when it hired Howard through Put Illinois to Work to assist with administrative tasks.

“I’m grateful for the chance to hold a job and earn my own money,” said Howard.

Through Put Illinois to Work, Howard has gained valuable job skills and increased financial independence. But, unless Congress extends funding for Put Illinois to Work, Benford, Brown & Associates will have little choice but to let Howard go after the program ends on September 30.

Effective Job-Creation Program Set to End September 30 Unless Congress Acts

Unfortunately, the TANF Emergency Fund will expire on September 30 unless Congress extends it. With no assurance that Congress would act, the state will have no choice but to notify participating employers and employees that the program will no longer be able to subsidize wages after September 30, 2010, unless the program is extended. More than 20,000 individuals in Illinois could become unemployed if the program is not extended.

“The program has exceeded all our expectations,” Caronina Grimble, Senior Project Manager from the Illinois Department of Human Services, said of the state program funded by the TANF Emergency Funds. “Our worker-trainees are thrilled to be earning a paycheck that allows them to meet their basic needs and learn new skills. Our employers are grateful for the opportunity to expand their workforce during a time of economic uncertainty.”

Unemployment in Illinois remains above the national average at 10.3 percent in Illinois and another bleak national monthly employment report is due out tomorrow from the Department of Labor. In Illinois, the job loss as a result of the program’s expiration alone could increase the unemployment rate to 10.7 percent.

“It makes no sense to shut down an effective jobs program and put more people out of work right now,” said LaDonna Pavetti, co-author of the report. “It’s the opposite of what the country needs: jobs will evaporate, unemployed mothers and fathers will struggle to make ends meet, and it will add more strain to the already fragile economic recovery.”

Congress Can Extend Program, Save Tens of Thousands of Jobs Nationwide

The House has voted twice to extend the Fund, which has placed an estimated 250,000 low-income parents and youth in subsidized private- or public-sector jobs nationwide. But, the Senate has yet to act. The costs of the House extensions were fully offset and would not add to the deficit.

The Emergency Fund was included in last year’s Recovery Act with the purpose of providing states with extra resources to meet the increased need for assistance during a recession. The Fund gives states the ability to put money in the hands of people who will spend it, which helps lessen the damage that the recession would have otherwise done to the economy and especially to vulnerable populations.

Thirty-seven states operate subsidized employment programs using these funds. Yet many of the programs — including most of the largest ones — will have to close their doors on September 30 if Congress doesn’t extend the fund; others plan to greatly scale back operations.

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Note to reporters: Please contact Shannon Spillane, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to schedule interviews with program participant Sheena Howard and/or her employer Benford, Brown & Associates.

The full report, featuring state-by-state data, is available at: