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Federal stimulus cash to subsidize Rock County jobs

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 17, 2010
— Employers and unemployed workers in Rock County will benefit from $737,000 in federal stimulus funding, state officials announced Friday.

The money will be used to pay the minimum wages of about 50 workers for six months.


The money falls short of meeting the needs of the jobless, however, said the head of one local charity that works with the poor.


The Transitional Jobs Demonstration Project targets two groups: noncustodial parents—mostly fathers—and those age 18 to 24.


Applicants also must be unemployed for at least four weeks, not be eligible for unemployment compensation and not be eligible for the state’s W-2 welfare program.


It’s not a cure-all, but it is another way that the government is helping the employers and workers get back on their feet, said Reggie Bicha, secretary of the Department of Children and Families.


Karen Lisser, executive director of the ECHO charity in Janesville, was at the Job Center for a different meeting and came to hear the announcement.


Lisser said the jobs are welcome, but there are hundreds of unemployed who could benefit if more money were available.


After two years with few jobs of any kind available, this program will appeal to many, Lisser predicted.


The $34 million program targets 38 of the state’s 72 counties. The money will benefit 4,000 unemployed people statewide, Bicha said.


Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties will get about $357,000 to run the program in Rock County, said Lisa Furseth, Community Action’s executive director. The remaining $380,000 will pay the wage subsidies.


Furseth said her agency will incur significant costs in lining up employers and preparing these hard-core unemployed for work.


Community Action will be the employer of all the workers, Furseth said. The agency will handle payroll, provide job training, follow each employee during employment and help those who need a driver’s license, high-school equivalency or remedial instruction in math and English, if needed, she said.


Furseth said Community Action originally asked for $880,000 to serve 60 clients, but the state cut the allotment. Almost all of the cut came out of wage subsidies.


Furseth said she hopes to announce the application process in September and to place people in jobs in October.


Hopes are that employers will use the subsidized wages to train workers during the six-month subsidy and then continue those jobs after the subsidy runs out.


Furseth said she expects many more applicants than the program can accommodate.


Community Action will assess applicants and determine who qualifies and who is the most work-ready and most likely to succeed with this opportunity, Furseth said.


Employers are not required to continue the jobs after the subsidies run out, but they are encouraged to do so. Some already have expressed enthusiasm for using the program to help them take on new projects and create new jobs, Bicha said.



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