TANF Emergency Fund: Congress Allowing Jobs-Creating Program To Expire

Congress is set to increase unemployment by not reauthorizing a fund for a subsidized jobs program that will expire on September 30, jeopardizing 240,000 jobs in 37 states.

"Unless Congress extends the fund, tens of thousands of people across the country will lose jobs -- potentially raising the unemployment rate in places with particularly large programs, such as Illinois and Los Angeles," writes LaDonna Pavetti of the progressive Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Pavetti estimates that in Illinois, 20,000 people will probably lose their jobs, potentially raising the state's unemployment rate from 10.4 to 10.7 percent. In Los Angeles, as many as 10,000 jobs are at stake, potentially bumping unemployment from 12.3 to 12.5 percent.

The stimulus bill created the jobs in question by creating an Emergency Fund to help states with their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) programs. The TANF Emergency Fund, among other things, helped states provide jobs for people with children.

In May, the House approved a bill that would have reauthorized funding for the TANF Emergency Fund program, but the "tax extenders" measure crumbled in the Senate over deficit concerns from the right. Senate Democrats eventually dropped the TANF funding, as well as $16 billion in Medicaid assistance to states, in an effort to pass an urgent reauthorization of unemployment benefits, which lapsed for 2.5 million people before Democrats finally succeeded in breaking a Republican filibuster last week.

Republicans, joined by a handful of Democrats in the Senate, voted down a reauthorization of the TANF Emergency Fund back in March, when deficit reduction fever was only beginning to catch on in Congress. HuffPost spoke to an employer in California who said she would have to lay off three people without a reauthorization.

"The senators who voted against that bill are idiots," the woman said.

Republicans have targeted the program, saying it pays poor people not to work and that it represents a backdoor effort to undo welfare reform. (Republicans outside of Congress have praised the program.)

The Hill reported Monday evening that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was considering reviving the state Medicaid funding this week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged state lawmakers on Monday to pressure the Senate to renew the aid. "Senate Republicans have already voted twice to obstruct progress on this legislation," said Pelosi in a speech National Conference of States Legislatures in Louisville. "America's state legislators: I call on your advocacy. Let's work together to point out what is at stake and ask the Senate to join us in creating American jobs."

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