City tries last-ditch effort to save jobs

Mayor Gavin Newsom is hoping to spare some of the thousands of workers who are likely to lose their jobs at the end of the month after a federally funded jobs program expires.

Newsom directed his team to find ways to help businesses keep workers should San Francisco’s JobsNow program expire Sept. 30. One idea being considered is a package of incentives and subsidies that would entice employers to retain workers on their own dime.

The stimulus program has employed nearly 4,000 people in San Francisco, helping to keep the jobless rate from shooting above 10 percent, Newsom said. But the program will expire at the end of the month unless Congress signs off on releasing another $2.5 billion nationwide to support jobs programs another year.

Prepping for the worst, last week San Francisco suspended JobsNow, which uses the federal funds to cover 100 percent of the wages for workers hired through the program. Afterward, Newsom and business leaders launched an online petition to push Congress to approve the extension.

Meanwhile, the mayor is exploring ways to offset the potential job losses. He is considering the possibility of funneling money from the state’s CalWorks program and shifting around general-fund dollars to create financial incentives and offer short-term wage subsidies that would help workers keep jobs at least through the end of the year, said Trent Rhorer, executive director of the Human Services Agency.

“We are exploring different avenues to maximize the number of employees who stay in their current jobs,” Rhorer said.

It’s the public sector employees — city gardeners, clerks and administrative workers — who will likely take the biggest hit should the program expire, Rhorer said. With that in mind, the agency is working to identify nonprofits and other private sector businesses that might hire these city workers if they had a city subsidy in hand, he said.

Rhorer said he’s currently interviewing employers to see how many will retain their workers and how many will fire them once the program expires. A recent survey found that 72 percent saw an increase in sales as a result of hiring through JobsNow, which could indicate that many businesses will have the extra money to support these workers on their own.

Others won’t be so lucky. Robert Miller, president of books for Internet Archive, a digital library, hired 145 workers through the program. And although he saw a boom in business, he still can’t afford to keep more than 15 percent of those workers after the program expires, Miller said.

But some kind of city subsidy would likely carry some of those employees through until the end of the year, he said.

“The economy cannot absorb these jobs easily,” Miller said.

JobsNow

3,833 Employed
826 Working for The City
44 Percent employed who are black
19 Percent employed who are younger than 24
7,267 Eligible workers waiting for jobs when program expires

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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