A group of young mothers gathered in Civic Center outside the Federal Building Tuesday morning to call for state leaders to extend a program that uses federal stimulus dollars to subsidize jobs for lower-income parents.
The women, holding signs that read “Governator, don’t terminate Calworks!” and “Community Support = Community Service”, are all currently employed through San Francisco’s JobsNow program, which helps employers bring on new hires who meet certain criteria by paying for 100 percent of their wages.
Among them was Mariana Vargas, a 20-year old single mother with an 8-month-old son. Vargas was out of work for almost three years until last month, when she was placed in a job through San Francisco’s federally funded JobsNow program.
That job and thousands of others are set to expire Sept. 30 unless representatives in Washington, D.C., vote to extend funding to the program.
Vargas said finding work in San Francisco was difficult for her once she became pregnant shortly after moving here from Washington state. Now, she works with the Living Wage Coalition, a grassroots movement of low-wage workers championing for economic justice.
“Working with the coalition has given me job training and computer skills,” Vargas said. “I can get a better job opportunity when it comes along.”
Event organizers said they were there to dispel a “myth that there isn’t enough money” to support local employment programs such as JobsNow.
Organizers said the elimination of the assistance program has been “framed as a scarcity model” by elected officials as the state faces another double-digit deficit.
Gov. Schwarzenegger is proposing doing away with the state’s assistance program, CalWORKs, which administers a mix of federal and state funds to needy families.
Without CalWORKs, California would become ineligible for a slice of the $2.5 billion that the extension would make available to states, said San Francisco Human Services Agency executive director Trent Rhorer.
While CalWORKs provides different types of assistance to needy families, it also oversees subsidized employment programs like JobsNow.
The San Francisco Human Services Agency, which administers federal funds on the local level through JobsNows, has suspended applications to the program pending a decision by Congress.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a one-year extension of fund that has sustained the employment program until now. Even if the bill gains the Senate’s approval, it would be up to individual states and counties to allocate the funds. Politics in the Senate have stalled the bill, which was shot down from a vote most recently on June 24.
To be eligible for JobsNow, potential employees must be San Francisco residents with at least one minor child and a household income that is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Employers are required only to pay for payroll taxes and any benefits that employees typically receive.
More than 3,400 workers have been placed throughout the Bay Area – eligible workers can accept positions outside city limits – and the program surpassed its expectations according to goals set by the Human Services Agency.
The agency originally aimed to reach 1,000 placements.
No cap exists on the number of jobs that can be created through the program.
Employers who retain JobsNow participants as regular employees after the program expires may still qualify for a federal tax credit that rewards employers who create jobs.