Usually the Mission District Neighborhood Center on Capp Street is filled with preschool-age children and hungry seniors. Today it was filled with people who had come to see Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi was at the center to raise support for Jobs Now, a program that gives federal stimulus money to local businesses and nonprofits to hire local residents. Since it was established in 2009, Jobs Now has employed more than 3,250 San Franciscans. But the program expires September 30, and it’s uncertain whether funding will be renewed.
“Thank you for giving us a model for the nation,” Pelosi said. “We have to keep it going.”
Pelosi blamed partisan politics for the threat to the program. Then, sounding a little partisan herself, she blamed Republicans for stalling a bill that would expand Jobs Now and other unemployment-related programs.
Still, she told the crowd, she expects the U.S. Senate to pass the bill.
Barbara Walden, 29, had been unemployed for over a year until she saw the flier for Jobs Now.
“It was a lifeline,” she said. Now she is an executive assistant to the director of Mission Neighborhood Centers, which has gained 18 staffers through Jobs Now.
Under the program, 100 percent of an employee’s wages are subsidized as long as the applicant is unemployed and has a dependent child. The employer remains responsible for regular payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance.
In addition to the new staff members, Mission Neighborhood Centers has received $117,000 in stimulus funding for Head Start and its early-childhood education program.
Walter Bonilla, 24, works with youth at risk of being involved with gangs. “I will probably be unemployed if this program doesn’t get funding,” he said.
Santiago Ruiz, Mission Neighborhood Centers’ executive director, said that Jobs Now has allowed him to hire staff when it was most needed, and has allowed the organization’s staff to have a say in who is hired.
If the program loses funding in September, says Ruiz, the organization will lose several critical positions, including the facilities manager, who oversees its 13 locations, and its IT staff person.
“That’s a challenge we are preparing for,” he says.