Washington politics holding up funding for JobsNow 

Arik Levy, owner of Laundry Locker, has used the federally funded JobsNow program to hire five employees for his environmentally conscious dry cleaning business based in the Mission Bay area.

But due to politics in Washington, D.C., the millions of federal dollars that have funded the locally initiated program have disappeared, and Levy may have to decide if he can afford the salaries of the workers he removed from the unemployment line.

JobsNow has been the cornerstone of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s economic stimulus strategy, using millions of dollars in federal funds to match unemployed workers with local businesses. The federal dollars cover 100 percent of employee wages.

The funding has been part of the larger federal bill to provide extended unemployment benefits for laid-off workers that’s now in jeopardy after getting tangled up in congressional politics. JobsNow has already helped employ 3,250 people citywide, yet it’s set to expire Sept. 30 unless Congress extends the jobs package, which would release more than $2.5 billion to states across the nation that are suffering from a perpetually high unemployment rate.

The legislation would extend unemployment insurance, along and provide tax breaks sought by business lobbyists and tax increases on domestically produced oil and on investment fund managers.

San Francisco, with a nearly 10 percent unemployment rate, is already preparing for the worst. The City has started turning away unemployed residents searching for work through JobsNow.

“It got caught up in the pay-as-you-go politics,” said Trent Rhorer, director of The City’s Human Services Agency. “It’s being held hostage.”

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill that’s now being held up by some Senate members who have growing concerns about the mounting federal deficit. On Friday, House Democrats began discussing the possibility of reviving the legislation this week as a stand-alone bill free of the controversial tax and spending provisions that prompted Senate Republicans to filibuster it Thursday.

To be on the safe side, Rhorer’s office is planning to work with employees to transition them from the program by offering résumé assistance and educating workers on the benefits they might be qualified for should they lose their jobs.

Employers such as Levy will have to halt hiring or possibly lay off workers.

“I might let a part-time person go,” Levy said. “It’s a shame it won’t continue; that will definitely slow down our hiring.”

Newsom continues pushing to get JobsNow funded for another year. He’s working closely with San Francisco’s federal representatives to look for other possible vehicles to pay for the program.

“Mayor Newsom is certainly going to great lengths to talk to anyone who will listen in Washington about the importance of the Senate passing a version of the bill, which includes the JobsNow money,” said Tony Winnicker, Newsom’s spokesman. “There is a political insiders’ conversation going on in D.C. and we are doing everything we can to send the message that this affects real people in San Francisco.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Putting people to work

15 million Unemployed workers nationwide as of May
46,900 Unemployed in San Francisco
3,250 San Francisco residents who gained employment through JobsNow
5,000 Employees registered with JobsNow
1,000-plus Employers certified to hire through JobsNow
$25 million Cost of program

Source: City Controller’s Office, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


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