Legislative leaders and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell have been at odds for months over how to close the $8.8 billion budget deficit. But as they continue to haggle over taxes and spending, hundreds have lost their jobs and hundreds more have lost access to the employment services that can help them find work.
Edward White, 39, of Bristol, is a single-father of two and has been hunting for a job for more than a year. While things have been tough for White, they’re about to get even tougher without a state budget in place.
Starting on Monday, White will no longer receive daycare services for his 2-year-old son.
“What happens if I get a job interview? I’ll have no one to watch him,” White said in a phone interview Friday morning. Staff at the Bristol CTWorks office where White used to receive job counseling said he still shows up every morning looking for a job.
But the support system he’s been using during his search has begun to disappear.
White, a Jobs First program participant, was just one of 8,000 individuals who received noticesthat the program was being shut down on June 30 because of the budget impasse.
While the governor’s budget office contends some of the $30 million in Workforce Investment Act funds the state allocated on June 19 can be used to fund the state program, Thomas Phillips, president and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners, says that’s not the case.
Phillips said Jobs First is a state program, while the Workforce Investment Act funds are federal. “These are two distinctly different programs,” said Phillips, whose workforce investment board is in charge of administering these funds.
And even if those funds could be used for the Jobs First program, he said, the money would only serve about 8 percent of the clients because many of them – like White- are not eligible for the federal program.
Phillips said 431 clients in subsidized jobs provided by the Jobs First program were laid off at the end of June. And without the funding there are another 100 employees who administer the job services who also will be laid off, Phillips said earlier this week.
“A lot of services were available through the Jobs First program that are not available under the federal stimulus funds,” Phillips said. He said transportation and childcare are two of the services, which will no longer be provided to these clients. He said it’s nearly impossible for people to get to work without those supports in place.
“The idea is to get more people off welfare and into employment,” he said. “It is a very successful program.”
Phillips said tens of thousands of people have utilized the services on their way to employment, and he added that the situation reminds him of an adage: If you give a hungry man a fish, he will be able to eat. But if you instead teach the man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime.
Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for the governor’s budget office, said some of the Workforce Investment Act funds appropriated by the General Assembly in June can be used for the Jobs First program. He said the Workforce Investment Boards can use the money for their administration and there’s enough money in the Jobs First program for the month to support the Department of Labor staff at some of these job centers.
In Rell’s executive order to keep government afloat without a budget she allocated $450,000 in Workforce Investment Act funds and $65,000 in funds for the Jobs First program for the month of July.
“We’re having to find savings where we can,” Beckham said Friday, adding that approved uses of the Workforce Investment Act funds are broader, while the Jobs First program funds are aimed at a targeted population. He said that some of the services Jobs First clients had received in the past will be scaled back until the legislature and governor can agree on a budget.
“We could use an agreed-upon budget,” Beckham said. “It would solve all these problems.”
White doesn’t necessarily disagree. He said he is so frustrated that he’s thinking about traveling to Hartford to let lawmakers know how important these programs really are to those living on the margins.
“I’ve just about run out of ideas,” White said as he pondered creating a sign with his children’s crayons to bring with him to Hartford.
White said he has a commercial truck drivers license, but needs to stay close to home so he can care for his two children. He would like to find a job driving a truck with a local route. However, without the childcare services the state has provided in the past he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. If it wasn’t for the rental assistance subsidy that state gives him, he said, he would be at a homeless shelter with his two children.
Click the play arrow below to see an interview with White by Channel 30’s Tom Monahan or click here and read Tom’s report.