Stimulus-funded jobs still available

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Federal economic stimulus money remains available to pay workers, a government spokeswoman said this week when another official explained one of the more notable requirements for jobs paid through September.

And because of the way the jobs are being filled over time - with most starting next week, there are a total of 256 jobs to be funded, based on calculations made Tuesday. That's 81 more jobs than the originally planned 175 positions.

To get one of the jobs, the applicant must have a child age 17 or younger living at home. That requirement has been criticized when divorced fathers are paying child support, but it's a federal requirement and a state spokeswoman said judges can change terms of the divorce.

"We have seen many modifications over the last few years due to the economy," state Human Services spokeswoman Michelle Mowery Johnson said. Parents "can request a modification of their child support order if they've lost a job or had a decrease in hours and pay."

State child support guidelines allow judges to "change the ordered amount if a parent has experienced a 15 percent change in gross income," Johnson said.

That, however, applies to increases and decreases in a parent's income.

Meanwhile, Paige Liggett, spokeswoman at the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance office in Columbia, says federal funding for jobs remains the same, but the ebb and flow of start dates and wage rates allowed a different calculation which reveals more jobs could be subsidized.

Last week, the calculations permitted a conclusion that instead of funding 125 private business jobs and positions in local government agencies, the money will subsidize 206 jobs.

Of those 206 "slots," 131 had been filled by noon Tuesday, Liggett said.

"Keep in mind that the number of people employed will go up and down, but as of now there are 131 people," she said. "The majority of them will start working next week."

Meanwhile the number of jobs available at the Tennessee Department of Transportation remained at 50 and of those, 30 had been filled, Liggett said Tuesday.

"Jobseekers who did not attend the Job Fair last week and would like to start the process of participating in the program should go to the Tennessee Career Center in Lewisburg," Liggett said.

Tia Anderson is the project manager at the Career Center in the Columbia State Community College building on South Ellington Parkway.

Nearly 470 job applicants were screened at the Job Fair April 20 and 142 were hired that day, or shortly thereafter. State and local governments and businesses based in Marshall County are receiving money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to pay wages and benefits for workers hired under this program.

"Employers who did not participate in the Job Fair last week and would like to hire someone through the program should contact Stephen Webb at 931-490-3809," Liggett said. Job seekers should call the Career Center at 359-9726.

The state jobs available are with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The jobs are almost anywhere TDOT needs workers.

All the jobs are funded with stimulus money, but it's being drawn from two different sources.

"The jobs for TDOT are not being paid with the $3 million the governor allocated for the Marshall County Recovery Program, but it is coming from ARRA Department of Human Services fund," Liggett said.

Gov. Phil Bredesen directed $3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund the larger part of the Marshall County Job Creation Recovery Program. It was created because the unemployment rate here was the highest in the state for three months. It's the second highest now, according to figures issued Thursday.

The program is also taking place in Lauderdale, Hancock, Perry and Scott counties.

Subsidized employment is open to single-parent and two-parent households, but they must have must have at least one child in household age 17 or younger.

Reasons are rooted in the program's goals and how the structure for the system was modified by reform in the welfare system that's included Aid to Families and Dependent Children (AFDC), Families First, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, pronounced Tan-F.

Social welfare concepts applied to employment assistance are to: Provide assistance to needy families so children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; End the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work and marriage; And assist Marshall County residents in achieving or maintaining economic self-support to prevent, reduce, or eliminate dependency.

"Unfortunately these funds are limited, and we simply can't serve everyone and we didn't feel like we could be sure that we were meeting the requirements to serve needy children if we subsidized jobs for the non-custodial parent," Johnson said. "Our top priority is working with those families with a child in the home.

"The operative word is families," she said. "It is the block grant program that helps very low income families, generally well below of the food stamp eligibility level, or those who have income that's about 130 percent of the poverty rate.

"Marshall County's food stamp load is 2,600 cases," the DHS spokeswoman said. That means about 6,000 people in the county benefit from food stamps and there are some 242 Families First cases in Marshall County... It is a work program. And the state, through the federal dollars, pays the childcare. It changed in the '90s. You had to work to get childcare."