Bill to Expand Transitional Jobs Program Gets Two Hearings This Week

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:55 PM by

Could Lack of New Funding Divert Resources from the Current Milwaukee Program? 

We were very pleased to learn a couple of weeks ago that the package of workforce training bills being proposed by the Governor includes one to expand the Transitional Jobs program, which now only operates in Milwaukee.  Our enthusiasm was tempered when we realized that the bill isn’t funded.   Apparently, the idea is to use existing funding to expand the program, but a funding source hasn’t been identified.   

Transitional Jobs programs provide on-the-job training to low-income people.   Wisconsin’s Transitional Jobs program was first implemented several years ago as a pilot program, with funding from the federal Recovery Act.   Although that came to an end, the 2013-15 biennial budget bill created a new version of it in Milwaukee, which is now called  the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program.  It was allocated $9.9 million from the federal welfare reform block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).   

The bill proposed by the Governor and co-authored in the legislature by Senator Darling and Rep. Weatherston would allow the Dept. of Children and Families to expand the program to one or more additional  geographic areas with relatively high rates of unemployment and childhood poverty.  Identical versions of the proposal have been introduced in both houses of the legislature, as AB  401 and SB 333.   

AB 401 is getting a public hearing in the Assembly Workforce Development Committee this Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 10 am in Room 415-NW.   The Senate companion bill, SB 333, is being heard by the Senate Economic Development and Local Government Committee on Thursday at 11 am in Room 330-SW.   

It will be interesting to see if one or both of the companions bills will subsequently be referred to the Joint Finance Committee.  If so, I presume a funding option will be identified by that time.  One option could be to use some of the funding already set aside for the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program, but an article in the Milwaukee Business Journal quotes Senator Darling’s aide, Bob Delaporte, who said that’s not the intent.  “One of the requirements when we first talked about this bill is that it not take away from Milwaukee,” Delaporte told The Business Journal. “Obviously we want to build on what Milwaukee has done and replicate it in other parts of the state.”  

As that article notes, a study released in September by the Economic Mobility Corporation examines the effectiveness of subsidized job programs in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Florida and the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.  During the period of the study, the Wisconsin program had placed 2,963 people in subsidized positions with 760 different employers.  Among those participants, two-thirds were African Americans, 63% were men, and 62% had been unemployed for at least 6 months, and almost two-fifths (39%) had felony convictions.   

Among the 801 Wisconsin participants for whom researchers had a year’s worth of post-program outcome data, annual income grew from just $1,966 in the year before their participation in the program to $5,276 in the year after the program – an increase of 168%.   Updating the study findings, the article says that 4,076 people participated in the program through May of this year and 2,050 of those had gone on to secure an unsubsidized job, according to data provided by Conor Williams, the secretary of the Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative. 

We’ll continue to follow the new Transitional Jobs bills as they work their way through the legislature. 

Jon Peacock

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