Georgia Works: Boehner, Cantor Embrace Possible Obama Plan For Long-Term Jobless

WASHINGTON -- Republican leaders in Congress on Tuesday offered their support for a plan the White House is considering to help the 6 million long-term jobless get back to work.

The Obama administration has suggested it is looking at a program called Georgia Works, which allows businesses to train jobless participants for eight weeks without having to pay them. The program is voluntary for workers and businesses.

"Reportedly your administration is looking at the 'Georgia Works' program as a potential model" for reforming the unemployment insurance system, wrote House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a Tuesday letter to President Obama outlining possible areas of agreement on job creation.

"As you may recall, we suggested adoption of a 'Georgia Works' type program during our discussion of efforts to help the economy back in December of 2009 (White House meeting on December 9th and subsequent letter on December 22nd)," Boehner and Cantor continued. "We continue to stand ready to work with you to implement common-sense reforms in this area."

The program is only open to workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits. During recessions, the federal government pays benefits for jobless workers who run out of the standard six months of state benefits without finding work. The current federal extended benefits, which can provide up to 73 weeks of extra benefits, are set to expire in January. The White House may be considering implementing something similar to Georgia Works as part of a bargain to reauthorize the extended benefits, which cannot be done without Republican support.

Though state officials have said most workers who go through on-the-job training via Georgia Works later wind up with jobs, there is almost no data backing the claim. Labor advocates worry the program exploits workers by giving free labor to businesses.

The Georgia Department of Labor said that as of last week, there were just 19 people enrolled.

While the White House has repeatedly refused to comment on the specifics of Obama's upcoming jobs speech, the administration has not denied it is looking at Georgia Works.

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