White House pushes for extension of program to help needy families

Bernstein’s argument is that the program helps put people back to work by providing income assistance for new employees’ wages, “giving employers a strong incentive to hire unemployed workers” in private-sector jobs and nonprofits. 

In May, House Republicans targeted the program as part of their “You Cut” initiative, describing it as a “new non-reformed welfare program” that would save an estimated $2.5 billion.  

That program description got a strong rebuke from Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, who said Republicans “are so out of touch that they have deceived people about a program that Republicans outside the Beltway think is a good thing.”

The temporary program provides short-term, one-time basic assistance for needy families, as well as subsidized employment programs — programs that temporarily pay for the wages of a worker in a public or private sector job. The program requires states to contribute funds for every new person served, so there is no financial “incentive” for states to increase the number of people receiving assistance, according to the House Ways and Means Committee. 

“The program helps folks get out of their homes and into jobs, it’s also helping them get off public assistance like unemployment insurance and welfare,” Bernstein wrote. 

The subsidies for new employees “can make the crucial difference between small business owners hunkering down or deciding to expand their businesses and create new jobs,” he said.

About 200,000 jobs are expected to be created in 35 states, and the Illinois program — started several months ago — has placed 14,000 workers, he wrote. 

“Let me assure you, as someone who has spent decades studying job creation programs, to reach these kinds of numbers this quickly is nothing short of remarkable,” he said.