Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill that would give vital assistance, and a little peace of mind, to jobless workers and women who depend on Medicaid. The bill extends enhanced unemployment insurance benefits and COBRA assistance through the end of the year, and provides additional funding to states to protect Medicaid services. In addition to providing a necessary safety net, UI benefits are a very effective engine for stimulating the economy, so we hope Congress moves quickly to finalize the legislation.
Unfortunately, despite lawmakers’ repeated assertions that job creation is their top priority, a minority of Senators successfully blocked an amendment that would have funded well over half a million jobs for low-income parents and youth. Senator Judd Gregg objected that the provision wasn’t fully paid for—it was, but over ten years rather than over the five years required by Senate rules—which meant that 60 votes were necessary to add the provision to the Senate’s tax extenders and jobs bill. Only 55 Senators voted to create 500,000 summer jobs for low-income youth and to extend the TANF emergency fund for six months.
The TANF emergency fund has been used to create about 100,000 subsidized jobs for low-income parents, as well as meet the increased need for cash assistance and short-term emergency help, but is set to expire at the end of September. Senators Warner and Webb of Virginia, Senator Nelson of Nebraska, Senator McCaskill of Missouri and every Republican Senator voted no on this targeted measure to create jobs for the single parents and youth who have been especially hard hit by the recession.
Congress can and should do more to directly create jobs. When the House considers the Senate-passed measure, it could add funding for the TANF emergency fund and summer jobs. Or, these funds could be included in a jobs bill targeting small business that is under consideration. And, an even more comprehensive job creation measure was introduced in the House yesterday.
The Local Jobs for America Act would create or save one million family-wage jobs with benefits, including 250,000 teaching jobs and 750,000 jobs in local governments and community non-profits like day care centers and home health care agencies. This assistance would come at a crucial moment, as local governments around the country are facing deficits and laying off workers, eliminating positions traditionally held by women, such as librarians, administrative assistants, and teachers. This measure is exactly the sort of action that is needed now. The next jobs bill Congress takes up must directly create jobs.