Editorial: Keep Them on the Job — The Philadelphia Inquirer

A federal jobs program supported by small businesses and antipoverty advocates alike has helped put 250,000 Americans to work over the spring and summer months.

Now the $5 billion stimulus program faces an abrupt end on Sept. 30 unless Congress wisely agrees to renew the funding.

In Philadelphia, 3,100 low-income and long-term unemployed people have landed these jobs.

Among the success stories: a Philadelphia International Airport service firm added 26 employees; a Fairmount coffee shop expanded to a location in Brewerytown, and 75 people were hired to work at six supermarkets around the city.

A rally Wednesday in Washington urging a $2.5 billion one-year extension was remarkable for the fact that jobs recipients were joined by business owners, as well as top elected officials. Groups traveling from Philadelphia and other cities to lobby Congress delivered an open letter signed by more than 1,200 employers in favor of the extension.

At hundreds of private businesses, in particular, the program is being hailed because these entry-level positions are not regarded as make-work jobs.

Known as Way to Work in Pennsylvania, the program covers wages and benefits, while employers provide a local match in the form of supervision. Nearly $100 million is being spent in the state, funding some 12,000 jobs.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think-tank, the program has “helped families get work and income and . . . helped employers maintain and even expand in tight times.”

Those tight times continue, as businesses try to get back on track to keep the economic recovery alive. So even though the jobs program was envisioned as a temporary, one-year effort, it makes sense to renew a program that provides opportunities for the unemployed as well as assists small businesses.

The House has twice-approved an extension, so the spotlight is on the Senate to do the right thing – which also happens to be the smart thing.

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