Look, says Cheryl Spaulding, a longtime advocate for the suburban unemployed. It's very nice to have a jobs program that pays $13 an hour, but the stimulus-funded jobs subsidy program that I wrote about in Sunday's Inquirer is too little and too late to address the folks that are coming into Joseph's People. "It sounds elitist to say that professionals need something else, but that's part of the problem," she said.
The people that come into her organization, Joseph's People, a group founded in Downingtown more than a decade ago to help unemployed people, are not, for the most part, unemployed people who earned $10 an hour. They are unemployed people on salary, or who were accustomed to earning $30 or $40 an hour, maybe $80 an hour, maybe more, except their pay had been expressed in terms of an annual salary.
She says that these people don't evoke sympathy, but that's not the point. When professionals with years of training and education take jobs paying $13 an hour, "they are actually blocking the upward progress of people who need those jobs." Thirteen an hour is a survival job for someone who once made $30 an hour, but for someone at $8 or $10 an hour, these $13 an hour jobs are crucial steps upward into the bottom of the middle class.
"If you don't get these professionals back on their feet, you're never going to get these young workers into jobs that will move them up. No wonder you have so many young people out of college who are unemployed," she said.
What's needed, she said, is a program that once helped her. She and her husband run a small software business. Years ago, a similar program allowed them to hire another programmer (who had been laid off!) with the government reimbursing most, if not all, of his professional-level salary. The government paid the bill for a year and when the program was over, Cheryl and her husband continued to employ him for several more years. They got a good employee, their business got a break, and most importantly, the programmer got work, kept his skills and stayed up in the economy as a contributor.