900,000 Will Lose Jobs When Jobs Funding Expires on September 30
By Cori Redstone
Mothers with young children, the disabled, and the elderly line up on a well worn, cream colored church bench in a crowded hallway. One man smiles eagerly as he is greeted by the Resource Specialist and invited to come in her office. He struggles to get to his feet and follows slowly relying on a black cane to make it to the office of Kate Osborne. We are in a windowless hallway of the Redwood Community Center and the clients are waiting for emergency food. Most people will receive a humble amount of bread, meat, cans and boxes. If they are lucky a sweet or two will be in their box. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not often available.
Workers like Kate across the country have a deadline looming. September 30 the funding for hundreds of thousands of jobs expires and those employees will be join the unemployed.
The people sitting outside Kate’s office are at the Redwood Road Emergency Food Pantry in West Valley Utah. It is run by the Salt Lake Community Action Program, an anti poverty agency. According to Neighborhood Specialist Mahina Jones the focus of the food pantries is primarily getting food out the door. They are overwhelmed by the increase in demand for their services and the Resource Specialist Program funded by the Recovery Act has been a godsend.
Resource Specialists Kate Osborne and Eva Monroy meet with people seeking food assistance to help them find other community resources that may help them get through the worst of the recession. They build relationships with clients and they ask for the women by name when they come.
The help the impoverished residents of Utah are seeking cannot come fast enough but with job losses in antipoverty and state agencies desperate residents may not find the help they need. Recovery Act funding provided over 5600 jobs in the state of Utah. Exact numbers for job losses due to the funding running out by state are not readily available at this time.
Analyst LaDonna Pavetti from the Progressive Center for Budget and Policy Priorities puts job losses as high as 900,000 when the funding for the jobs expires on September 30. When the funding was originally introduced it was hoped the economy would recover sufficiently enough for state and community agencies to keep new employees on the payroll. Those hopes have diminished in the drawn out recession and the inability of Congress to extend the jobs benefits.
Salt Lake CAP is unusual in that it will be able to retain 50 of approximately 75 workers who were hired with Recovery monies only because those 50 employees are part of the Weatherization Program; A program which has been extended two more years after Utah agencies hit their targets for weatherizing homes. Eva’s and Kate’s jobs will be gone when the funding expires at the end of September. Eva has only been at the agency for a short number of weeks. She came from the Jordan School District where her department was dissolved.
CAP Director Cathy Hoskins expresses concern about losing so many employees on the front lines of poverty during this drawn out recession; “They have done so much for so many during their time at CAP, that their services and caring will truly be missed. I’m sure that the demand for our multiple services will not decrease, so their absence will be felt by not only Salt Lake CAP but by the people they have helped both individually and collectively.”
The hope was that initial Recovery dollars would assist agencies facing significant budget cuts and increases in demand for those serving low income populations. The economy has not recovered sufficiently for those Agencies awarded ARRA funding to retain employees kept on or hired with Recovery dollars. Those agencies that faced reduced job cuts thanks to the funding will now have to let those employees go. This is only complicated by the increase in demand for the services of agencies like Salt Lake Community Action Program.
It is clear just how much the Resource Specialist Program has helped. It is evident by the requests from the public to meet with Kate and Eva. Food pantry supervisor Mahina Jones is pleased that clients call ahead to make sure they are available to meet with them. According to Mahina the relationships they build are vital for the potential success of the clients and their own ability to get on the road to self sufficiency. Sadly, the five Salt Lake CAP food pantries has also seen an increase in people who have never utilized emergency services. Jones emphasizes that is why the Resource Specialist Program is so much more important in helping families find resources to help them through tough times. All the funding for the badly needed program will be gone at the end of September.
ARRA funding provided a great opportunity for numerous community agencies to expand services, do large, short term projects, and train people with on the job experience.
The economic outlook for those families utilizing the services of the emergency food pantry is bleak. Job numbers have steadily stayed low. As for Kate she will move with her husband to California where he has been accepted to law school. They are expecting their first baby, a girl, before the holidays. Kate says she plans on working in a similar position in the future and applying the skills she learned at CAP to assist communities and families; “I like working one on one with people and I love the interaction. It feels great when I am able to resolve problems that clients may struggle with. Much of what I do is as simple as just listening and helping clients with basic life skills they never had the opportunity to learn.”
Cori Redstone is the Social Media Development Specialist for Salt Lake CAP.
Her position was funded by Community Service Block Grants under the Recovery Act.
The funding for her job ends September 30th.
The Center on Budget and Priorities
Salt Lake Community Action Program
See where the funding in your state is going