Georgia Works: Obama Plan To Let Jobless Work For Free Gets Key Backing From Paul Ryan

WASHINGTON -- While major parts of President Barack Obama's jobs plan are being met with hostility on Capitol Hill, at least one element was welcomed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, on Sunday. That's the president's plan to allow businesses to hire the long-term unemployed for a limited period of time for free.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Ryan raised the plan, modeled after a state program called Georgia Works, in response to a question about aid to states to prevent layoffs of first responders, teachers and other public employees. "We just don't think we should be bailing out state governments," he said. "That's the constitutional responsibility of state governments, not federal governments."

But, he added, he may end up supporting Obama's proposal to expand Georgia Works.

"The Georgia plan sounds pretty interesting, and that's unemployment reform," said Ryan. Much like welfare reform required recipients to show up at job centers or perform other tasks in exchange for aid, "unemployment reform" would require labor for aid.

HuffPost's Arthur Delaney previously found that while the program is popular with businesses that get the free labor, there is little data to recommend it:

The Georgia Department of Labor has said that within three months of participating in a voluntary job training program, nearly two-thirds of trainees found work. The program has been copied by other states, and the White House has indicated it is considering something similar as part of a forthcoming jobs package.

But the 60 percent of workers who participated in the Georgia program and supposedly found steady work may not have done so. The statistic means only that at some point within 90 days after a person completed the training, the person's Social Security number popped up in state payroll data. It doesn't mean the trainee had a job at the 90-day mark; it could even mean that a person worked just one day during those three months.


From its 2003 launch to the end of 2010, some 30,866 trainees entered the program, according to data provided to HuffPost by the Georgia Department of Labor. Of that total, 5,089 workers -- 16.4 percent -- were hired by the company that trained them during or at the end of the training period. (The department says that among workers who completed the full eight-week training, the employment rate is 24 percent.)

How does this success rate stack up to the overall rate at which once-unemployed Georgians have gone back to work? It's probably in the same ballpark.

Census Bureau data show that in 2007 and 2008, 15 percent of Georgians who'd been out of work for six months or longer found work within one month of a survey, according to Jesse Rothstein, an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. In 2009 and 2010, the number fell to 10 percent.

So Georgia Works may have given the jobless a boost, but Census numbers don't make for a clean comparison. They're even less helpful for evaluating the 90-day claim. The key difference is that Census numbers are a snapshot of how many people are employed at a given moment, while the Georgia Works numbers only reflect whether someone worked at any point over a longer period of time.

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