Funding for jobs, especially in today's economic climate, is usually welcome news, but we fear the intentions of a federal jobs program are being thwarted in Columbiana County.
The federal stimulus funding, awarded to the Department of Job and Family Services (JFS) and administered by the Salem Area Industrial Development Corp. (SAIDC) sounded worthwhile in theory, but when instituted raises questions.
The program pays the salary and benefits of income-eligible county residents hired by participating local companies. Participants must have children and a household income that doesn't exceed $44,000 for a family of four.
The SAIDC's job was to recruit companies to participate in the program and help them find skilled unemployed workers who qualified. Eight jobs with five different employers were found for workers. It was hoped that once the funding ran out, the companies would have the funding available to retain the employees.
However, the initial round of funding was scheduled to run out next month, and instead of the five employers beginning to pick up the tab, an additional $155,400 in funding has been obtained to fund the jobs through March.
We have to wonder, will these employers be in a position to step up to the plate and add these positions to their payrolls then? Or will they be looking for more taxpayer-funded handouts? A form of corporate welfare?
It also should be noted that owners of six of the eight companies awarded funding sit on the SAIDC board. And, one of the jobs funded was that of a previously laid-off Salem firefighter. Does funding this position fulfill the original intent of the grant's purpose? Aren't we merely substituting state tax dollars for city tax dollars by funding a city position? Wasn't the grant intended to help local businesses?
Yes, jobs are jobs, and they all help boost the local economy and they are certainly welcomed by those who were given the chance to fill the position. But, when taxpayer dollars are involved, we should be sure they are being spent exactly as they should be.