September 30, 2010; Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution |We’ve been reporting on the loss of jobs as programs funded by stimulus moneys end. In Georgia, one poignant story is about a jobs program that provided jobs for adults (the Adult Subsidized Employment Program), which paid 80 percent of a worker’s salary, not including benefits, in the private and nonprofit sectors for 2,300 people. The story is not just about stimulus moneys coming to an end, but about how some local and state governments failed to rise to the occasion.
In Georgia, the target for job creation was 5,000 jobs, but the state only spent half of the $21 million in stimulus that it had been authorized. Although the program was approved in May of 2009, the state didn’t start providing jobs until a year later. The Atlanta Workforce program says it wasn’t told of the program by the state until May of 2010, so in Atlanta, only 50 jobs were created.
Georgia’s management of other stimulus programs seems to have been similar. It only started providing money for the Fresh Start program (helping families pay home-related bills) 18 months after the program funds were approved in 2009. This is the kind of program misadministration that opens the stimulus program to conservative criticism, for example, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s contention—not inaccurate—that the state’s program was “not being run well . . . [and is] leaving businesses confused, concerned, and reluctant to involve themselves.”
The beneficiaries of the jobs program (who could qualify with incomes as high as 300 percent above the poverty level) were people who largely had not requested government assistance before. The program was to get people who were hit hard by the recession back on their feet. No offense to the state (or the federal government, whose regulatory processes the state blamed for its slow start), just give the money to competent nonprofits and you’ll see a lot more progress than a program that doesn’t spend half of its allotment and fails to reach half of its target outcomes.—Rick Cohen