What would you say if we told you that over the last year, the State of New York, in the face of soaring unemployment rates and a crippling deficit, left tens of millions dollars of federal funding for jobs programs on the table?
Sadly, this is not a hypothetical situation; it is a reality that has potentially hurt our economy and added to the struggle of thousands of out-of-work New Yorkers and their families.As the chairs of the State Senate Committee on Social Services and Committee on Children and Families, we have urged the State to fully access all dollars that could help put people to work.
There’s still time to get the money and create the jobs — if we understand and correct this mistake today.
In the 2009 budget, agreed to by the Governor and the Assembly, the Senate fought for and won significant new investments in four programs that provide meaningful employment training for public assistance recipients: the Transitional Jobs program, the Green Jobs program, the Health Care Outreach program, and the Wage Subsidy program.
The Senate made these programs a priority because in tough times, we need a smart jobs and public assistance policy to meet basic needs and to help prepare poor and unemployed New Yorkers for jobs in emerging sectors.
We also made them a priority because we identified an obscure but important provision in the federal stimulus: every new dollar the State spends on these vital programs is eligible for a four-to-one federal match under the stimulus bill. Specifically, these programs could allow New York State to draw down up to $64 million in additional federal funds.
The deadline to access and use these funds is September 30, 2010; the clock is ticking loudly. So what’s the problem? Is the state losing out on federal matching dollars because the fiscal crisis we’re battling has simply made funding these jobs programs impossible?
In fact, there are a number of creative ways for New York to access these millions of federal dollars to expand job creation, employment and training programs, without costing the state a single penny.
Here are some ways to bring in $64 million or more %u2013 without spending a single state dollar:
• New York State is likely poised to receive over $80 million in new federal family assistance dollars (TANF).Each new TANF dollar spent on these employment programs will leverage the four-to-one match under the stimulus bill.
• New York State is able to leverage matching funds using third-party funds including in-kind contributions.This means that time and resources spent by non-profits, private employers, and government agencies to administer these subsidized employment and training programs can be used to leverage matching funds through a memorandum of understanding with the State.
• As with in-kind contributions, donations from individuals and foundations for subsidized employment and training programs can be used by the state to leverage four-to-one matching funds.
The fact is, the State of New York has the power to do more to combat the employment crisis we face. The State can act to significantly expand job creation, employment and training programs at no additional cost to the State. With unemployment high and Governor Paterson beating the drum about our state’s fiscal crisis, the time to draw down federal dollars for new jobs is now.
Daniel Squadron is a State Senator in District 25. Velmanette Montgomery is a State Senator in District 18.