Amidst the worst downturn since the Great Depression, Congress included the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund in the 2009 Recovery Act to help states cover the costs of providing more assistance to low-income families suffering from the ill effects of the downturn. The Fund provided $5 billion over two years for increased state or federal TANF spending in three categories of aid to TANF-eligible families with children: (1) basic assistance, (2) non-recurrent, short-term (or emergency) benefits, and (3) subsidized employment.
The fund expired on September 30, 2010. Some 39 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and eight Tribal TANF programs received approval to use $1.3 billion from the fund to create new subsidized employment programs or expand existing ones. The remaining $3.7 billion in the fund was approved to cover increased costs associated with providing basic assistance and non-recurrent, short-term benefits, such as assistance to avoid eviction and potential homelessness.
This paper presents the results of a telephone survey of the subsidized employment programs funded all or in part with funds from the TANF EF, conducted by staff from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) during the summer and fall of 2010.
The paper concludes by highlighting the following lessons that can be drawn from states’ experiences:
- It is possible (though challenging) to get large-scale, countercyclical job creation programs up and running relatively quickly and to engage the private sector in creating job opportunities.
- Subsidized jobs targeted to disadvantaged individuals benefit not only participating workers and businesses but also entire communities and society at large.
- Flexibility makes success possible in many different environments.
- New targeted funding can provide the catalyst for innovation and increased collaboration.
- Subsidized employment programs can be implemented at reasonable cost.
- Subsidized employment programs serve a variety of purposes; their performance should be judged on measures that are consistent with their purpose.