City ramps up try to save JobsNow from federal axe

As the clock ticks down to thousands of San Francisco workers — including city employees — likely losing their jobs, city leaders are redoubling their efforts to urge Congress to renew the JobsNow program.

City officials and business leaders Thursday rolled out an online national campaign urging Congress to extend the $2.5 billion that would support job growth across the nation.

In San Francisco, which has a 9.7 unemployment rate, it would mean preserving the jobs created for nearly 4,000 workers while moving ahead with thousands of new hires.

Mayor Gavin Newsom last year used the money to launch the JobsNow program, which relies on federal stimulus dollars to cover the full wages of workers who are hired through the program.

It’s been much more successful than the mayor anticipated, having generated $55 million in earned wages over the last nine months, he said.

The program will end on Sept. 30, likely putting thousands of workers back in the unemployment line.

“We can hand out $450 a week not to work, or we can hand out $447 a week to work,” Newsom said, adding that more than 900 families have stopped relying on San Francisco’s welfare since the program started.

The funding has gotten tangled up in Washington politics as Republicans and Democrats debate how best to tackle the lingering unemployment problem nationwide.

With just a month left until paychecks start to cease, businesses are taking the matter into their own hands, launching an online campaign asking states to sign a petition urging Congress to approve the extension.

Robert Miller, president of Internet Archives, a local digital library, hired 145 workers through JobsNow, the last one as recent as Wednesday — the same day The City was forced to suspended the program, he said.

Miller said the guaranteed wages for these workers has bolstered sales, the key to recovering from the recession.

He isn’t the only one. A recent survey showed that 80 percent of businesses that hired through JobsNow saw an increase in their sales and revenue, according to the Human Services Agency, which administers the program.

“This is not a handout, this is a hand up as far as I’m concerned,” Miller said. “We need another leg up for another year.”

Meanwhile, city leaders have started to help businesses who cannot retain workers on their own dime, and transition employees who might lose their jobs.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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