With the unemployment rate stuck at an unacceptably high 9.7% nationwide, and little in the way of actual job creation or direct work programs coming from the federal government, many state legislatures are looking to a previously little-known program in Georgia called Georgia Works.
The program takes people on unemployment and pairs them with employers who need help, but may not have the resources to pay for another full-time employee. The program costs the employer nothing. The unemployed worker gets a small stipend in addition to his normal unemployment benefits check, as well as on-the-job training that will hopefully lead to full-time employment in the future.
Since the program's inception in 2003, over 8,000 people have participated in the program, and about half of those people have found full-time jobs.
On the face of it this looks like a great way to combat unemployment, but it Georgia Works a model program or state-subsidized slavery, as its opponents have portrayed it?
Critics - including some workers in the program - complain that they are working for barely more than their unemployment benefits for no guarantee of work afterwards. There is also some debate as to whether the program violates labor laws.
And another major criticism is that if there is a need for more labor by these companies, then why are they not hiring new workers?
I'm not sure if this is the answer, but I applaud the creativity and effort in trying to bridge the gap between unemployment and getting back into the workforce. Maybe there should be some buy-in from the employer, some percentage paid into an actual wage for these workers?
We need programs that create jobs, or put people to work for pay on a transitional basis. Tax breaks for new hires is simply not going to cut it.
What do you think about Georgia Works, similar programs, and their usefulness for the unemployed?
About Georgia Works (from AJC):
Created: March 2003
Companies that have participated in the program since it started: 8,099
People who have completed the program since it started: 7,823
People hired during or by the end of their training period: 3,669
Percent of participants hired: 48.9
Estimated savings to Georgiaâ€™s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund: $6.4 million*
Estimated savings to Georgia employers: $16.8 million**
States that have inquired about Georgia Works: 24
* Accomplished by getting unemployed workers back to work quicker.
**Money companies donâ€™t have to spend to train or hire workers.