The Federal Government is taking a page from the Peach State and looking for 10 states to participate in a new unemployment program modeled off of “Georgia Works.” The program called “Bridge to Work” allows individuals to work and still collect unemployment benefits for a temporary period. Trainees gain relevant skills and work experience to increase their marketability. In Georgia, about a third of the participants were hired after the completing the training program. A similar program in New Hampshire boasts a 65 percent permanent placement rate.
States participating in the grant program can use their unemployment trust funds to offer additional subsidies for childcare or travel costs- of course this is not an option for Pennsylvania with our trust fund still $3.8 billion in the hole. Besides, the subsidies are a slippery slope that can undermine the value of the program as Georgia’s experience shows. The state hiked subsidies from $300 to $600 and was forced to stop marketing the program after it ran out funds.
Still the Bridge to Work program could be a valuable counter to the excessive job search phenomenon- where an individual receiving long-term benefits is discouraged from aggressively seeking work.
In the end, the best jobs program is a vibrant economy. With the highest business taxes in the country, Pennsylvania has a long way to go to attract more employers and relieve our ailing unemployment compensation trust fund.