A key White House economic adviser is urging the Senate to extend a jobs-subsidy program that is favored by many, including the conservative governor of Mississippi.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Subsidized Jobs program, which allows states to use funds from the 2009 economic stimulus to help pay wages for new employees, is set to expire Sept. 30 — but ought to be allowed to continue, according to Jared Bernstein, chief economic advisor to Vice President Biden.
The program is on track to have created 200,000 jobs in 35 states, Bernstein says in a new blog post on the White House website.
“Let me assure you, as someone who has spent decades studying job creation programs, to reach these kinds of numbers this quickly is nothing short of remarkable,” he says. “It shows that, like our Cash for Clunkers program of a few months back, the subsidized jobs program has hit a policy sweet spot in the current economy, something that’s all too rare in this policy space.”
National unemployment remains close to double-digits, at 9.5 percent, and slow job-creation remains a significant barrier to a more-robust economic recovery, according to many analysts. Long-term unemployment, or those Americans who have been out of work six months or more, is at a level unseen since World War II.
Workers hired under the TANF program are placed in private-sector and non-profit jobs, as well as state jobs, Bernstein says.
“With many businesses still struggling, these subsidies for new employees can make the crucial difference between small business owners hunkering down or deciding to expand their businesses and create new jobs,” he says.
A jobs bill currently before the Senate would extend the TANF jobs program, but Republicans are blocking a vote on the legislation.
That is despite stated support by other conservatives, including Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi, and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mississippi uses TANF funds to pay for its subsidized jobs program, called STEPS.
“The STEPS program will provide much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities,” Barbour says, according to a press release from his office.
Economist Mark Zandi, an adviser to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 White House campaign, also thinks TANF should be extended.
He told Congress this year that the timing of the fund’s slated expiration in September “ is particularly inopportune given that unemployment will likely still be in or near double digits, and more workers will have exhausted their benefits. Extending the program for another year until unemployment is clearly moving lower seems appropriate. ”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.