Jobs are in jeop­ardy

Thou­sands of Cal­i­for­ni­ans face un­em­ploy­ment if Congress fails to ex­tend a sub­sidy pro­gram

Los Angeles Times - - Latextar - Alexan­dra Zavis and Rong-Gong Lin II

Michael Beightol has 12 years of re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence, but that was no help when he was look­ing for a job ear­lier this year. “I must have put in 1,000 ap­pli­ca­tions or more, and no one was hir­ing be­cause of the econ­omy,” said the 34-year-old Cov­ina res­i­dent, who is rais­ing an 8-year-old daugh­ter on his own.

His luck changed when Los An­ge­les County of­fered to pay his salary at Amer­i­cal Contractors Corp., a small, vet­eran-owned paint­ing firm in Pomona that is teach­ing him a new ca­reer as an es­ti­ma­tor.

“I’m so happy that they had this pro­gram, be­cause I feel like I am be­ing a pro­duc­tive part of so­ci­ety in­stead of sit­ting at home do­ing noth­ing,” Beightol said.

Us­ing fund­ing from last year’s $787-bil­lion stim­u­lus bill, Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties have put to work more than 35,000 peo­ple by sub­si­diz­ing their em­ploy­ment for up to a year, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from July. Many of those jobs are now in jeop­ardy un­less Congress ex­tends the fund­ing be­yond Thurs­day, the end of the fis­cal year.

The Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act of 2009 cre­ated a $5-bil­lion fund that states could tap to cover the ad­di­tional costs of their swelling wel­fare rolls, in­clud­ing pay­ing the wages of low-in­come par­ents and youths hired as trainees at gov-

ern­ment agen­cies, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions and pri­vate busi­nesses. Fed­eral of­fi­cials said 38 states have used the fund to cre­ate about 250,000 jobs.

“This pro­gram has suc­ceeded be­yond our wildest ex­pec­ta­tions,” said David Hansell, act­ing as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies, part of the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. Hansell was in Los An­ge­les this week to tour Moder­nica Fur­ni­ture, which has eight sub­si­dized work­ers.

He said three ob­jec­tives have been achieved: em­ploy­ing low-in­come peo­ple who oth­er­wise would have been on wel­fare, sup­ply­ing small busi­nesses with more help and keep­ing lo­cal economies hum­ming. “It would be a tragedy,” he said, “if we had to end this pro­gram af­ter the end of the week.”

The U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has voted to ex­tend the fund for a year at a cost of $2.5 bil­lion. How­ever, the pro­posal has stalled in the Se­nate amid con­cern over the size of the na­tional deficit. Any­one laid off would face a tough job mar­ket, with Cal­i­for­nia’s un­em­ploy­ment rate at 12.4%, well above the na­tional rate of 9.6%.

Of Cal­i­for­nia’s 58 coun­ties, 48 have used the fed­eral fund­ing, said Charr Lee Metsker, deputy di­rec­tor of the state Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices’ Wel­fare to Work Di­vi­sion. By July, they had re­ceived more than $215 mil­lion for sub­si­dized em­ploy­ment pro­grams and sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions for an ad­di­tional $210 mil­lion, Metsker said.

“Fam­i­lies spend those dol­lars in our state,” she said. “So not only is it good for our fam­i­lies, but it is good for Cal­i­for­nia.”

In all, Cal­i­for­nia has ap­plied for $1.3 bil­lion of the $1.8 bil­lion it was el­i­gi­ble to tap. Metsker said the state was ham­pered by the re­quire­ment to come up with a 20% match. It was only af­ter fed­eral au­thor­i­ties said the su­per­vi­sion and train­ing pro­vided by em­ploy­ers would count to­ward the match that many coun­ties re­al­ized they could use the fund to sub­si­dize jobs.

Los An­ge­les County, which al­ready had a small jobs pro­gram, was able to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion from a few hun­dred adults a year to more than 10,000, pay­ing them $10 an hour. The county also used the fund­ing to place about 16,500 youths in sum­mer jobs.

For 23-year-old Ieasha Gabriel, a re­cent uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate, it was a chance to bur­nish her re­sume by de­sign­ing pub­lic­ity ma­te­ri­als for the Pa­cific Res­i­dent Theater in Venice.

“It gave me con­fi­dence that I could go out there and get some­thing,” she said.

County Su­per­vi­sor Don Kn­abe said many adults em­ployed through the pro­gram have made the tran­si­tion to per­ma­nent, un­sub­si­dized jobs.

“To me that is proof alone that this pro­gram is a suc­cess,” he said in a state­ment. “We just need Congress to take ac­tion and ex­tend this pro­gram.”

Doug Nye, one of Amer­i­cal’s three part­ners, said the firm would like to keep all four of its sub­si­dized hires. He said the ex­tra of­fice staff has helped Amer­i­cal com­pete for more govern­ment con­tracts, which has pro­vided work for 35 painters. But he said the com­pany would have to lay off some peo­ple if fund­ing dried up.

With­out agree­ment on a state bud­get, county of­fi­cials don’t know whether they will be able to con­tinue the pro­gram with lo­cal fund­ing. Pink slips went out in Au­gust to the nearly 7,000 cur­rent par­tic­i­pants in Los An­ge­les County.

Beightol has al­ready warned his daugh­ter, Donna, that there might not be money for ex­tras like new shoes. He gave up a job as a Wal-Mart man­ager in 2008 be­cause he needed more time to care for Donna when he sep­a­rated from her mother. But look­ing for a new po­si­tion has been dis­heart­en­ing.

“No one is hir­ing,” he said. “Hope­fully, I can get some­thing for the hol­i­days.... I don’t want to be on wel­fare again.”

Ir­fan Khan

FA­THER: Michael Beightol, who got a new job as an es­ti­ma­tor at a paint­ing firm through a stim­u­lus-funded pro­gram, plays with daugh­ter Donna.

Ge­naro Molina

CAR­PEN­TER: Ge­orge Col­menares is one of eight peo­ple who got sub­si­dized jobs at the Moder­nica fur­ni­ture fac­tory in Los An­ge­les. An ex­ten­sion of the pro­gram has passed the House but is stalled in the Se­nate.

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