More than 100 park employees who assist city gardeners in weeding and picking up trash will lose their jobs at the end of September unless the federally funded JobsNow program receives an extension.
The Recreation and Park Department is one of dozens of city agencies, along with private companies and nonprofits, that took advantage of federal stimulus dollars to pay 100 percent of wages for new hires during the economic downturn. The resource, however, expires Sept. 30, and thousands of city residents could be back on the unemployment line. More than 2,500 city residents have been employed in either the private or nonprofit sector through JobsNow.
The jobs of about 122 workers with Rec and Park are at risk unless they are hired with city money. About 1,300 people have been employed by The City using JobsNow funds, according to officials.
“JobsNow has done a great job in helping keep our parks clean,” Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg said. “Again, I’ve got the budget that I’ve got.”
The employees helped The City’s parks reach an all-time high with an overall park-condition score of about 91 percent from the City Controller’s Office in March. However, Ginsburg emphasized that the scores have been gradually increasing during the past few years, before JobsNow even existed.
“Our park scores are a result of the help the JobsNow staff has provided, but also the result of the great work of our gardeners,” he said, adding that Rec and Park employs about 200 gardeners with part of its $12.4 million operating budget.
As the clock ticks for the JobsNow program, Mayor Gavin Newsom and his staff have been meeting with national leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and mayors from other counties to push Congress for an extension.
“The reality is these people would not have been employed within the last year,” said Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker. “We’re going to have to get resourceful and creative to keep as many of these people employed as long as possible. I think we all agree we have to deal with the reality of the budget environment.”
Winnicker said The City will survey whether the nonprofits and private employers will transition the JobsNow employees onto their payrolls.
“We don’t have great detail about what’s going to happen ... but I think that there’s sort of a hope that several hundred people will continue their jobs,” he said.
Federal stimulus funding for JobsNow is set to expire Sept. 30.
JobsNow has employed
Number of JobsNow employees who work for The City:
About 33 percent
Average private-sector wage
$19.50 per hour
Average nonprofit-sector wage
$15 per hour
Sources: Chamber of Commerce, Mayor’s Office