Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jobs program in Tennessee kept some rural residents working -- for a while

Last year, when the unemployment rate in Perry County, Tennessee, hit 27 percent, Gov. Phil Bredesen initiated a  $10.8 million jobs program. This month, the program ends and only 100 of the 400 residents who got private-sector work at offices, stores and factories will be able to keep their jobs, reports Bonna Johnson for The Tennessean. "We'll be treating this like a mass layoff," Jan Mc-Keel, executive director of South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance, said to Johnson. But not every business that received funding is laying off employees. The Armstrong Pie Company, in Linden, Tenn., was able to keep its new employees because their business expanded with the new staff.

Tennessee's program has drawn interest from around the country, including from Colorado, Florida and Mississippi, according to Johnson. To qualify for the program, families had to be at a certain income level, and in most instances had to have a minor child at home. "The major success is the number of people that had jobs during this time were able to get a paycheck and take care of their families," Commissioner Gina Lodge of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, one of the agencies that coordinated the program, said to Johnson. Continued high unemployment in the participating counties doesn't point to failure, Lodge said. Rather, it underscores the limited opportunities in those rural areas and the need for long-term solutions. (Read more)

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