Tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs within weeks unless Congress extends one of the more effective job-creating programs in the $787 billion stimulus act: a $1 billion New Deal-style program that directly paid the salaries of unemployed people so they could get jobs in government, at nonprofit organizations and at many small businesses.
In rural Perry County, Tenn., the program helped pay for roughly 400 new jobs in the public and private sectors. But in a county of 7,600 people, those jobs had a big impact: they reduced Perry County’s unemployment rate to less than 14 percent this August, from the Depression-like levels of more than 25 percent that it hit last year after its biggest employer, an auto parts factory, moved to Mexico.
If the stimulus program ends on schedule next week, Perry County officials said, an estimated 300 people there will lose their jobs ”” the equivalent of another factory closing.
“It’s very scary, because there’s just no work,” said Brian Davis, a 36-year-old father of four, who got a stimulus-subsidized job with the City of Lobelville after he lost his job of 17 years at an auto parts plant that shed hundreds of jobs. Now he faces the prospect of unemployment again.
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