The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) stimulus package included $5 billion to establish a new Emergency Fund for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs. TANF is what's commonly referred to as traditional "welfare," and it's the program that replaced AFDC.
The Emergency Fund is intended to help TANF programs serve more families seeking employment opportunities and other forms of assistance during the economic downturn. These funds will allow programs to subsidize jobs, paying up to 100% of the wages for local employers who hire on clients.
Because of timing and unanswered funding questions, the program was slow to roll out. Here in California, San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties led the way with early implementation. According to the SF Chronicle, San Francisco's Jobs Now program has used the TANF Emergency Fund to place just over 1,500 workers in subsidized employment and seeks to place at least 2,100 total. It has about 3,000 people on a waiting list and 400 to 500 jobs waiting to get filled, according to Trent Rhorer, executive director of San Francisco's Human Services Agency.
General requirements include being enrolled in or eligible for the CalWORKs program or having a household income over the previous 30 days that was 200 percent below the federal poverty limit. There must be a child in the family under the age of 18, and participants must have the right to work in the US. There is no limit to the wages that someone can earn. Currently, the program is set to expire Sept 30, 2010 but many hope the program will be extended for an additional year as unemployment is projected to remain high.
TANF programs are hoping that the subsidized work experience will lead to unsubsidized employment down the road. At the very least, this program would allow low income families to earn a living and to gain valuable work experience.
For ex-offenders who are part of a CalWORKs family, this is an exciting opportunity to get back to the world of work.
Contact your local social service agency to find out how TANF Emergency Funds are being administered in your county.
Racy Ming is manager of the Marin Employment Connection, the one-stop in Marin County, CA. She is also chair of the board for the California Re-Entry Program at San Quentin.