At a time when people are questioning the value of the federal government's stimulus spending, one program is showing real results for small businesses -- and the people they're able to hire.
When Mike Hannigan, president and cofounder of Oakland-based Give Something Back Business Products, wanted to hire new workers, he turned to Alameda County Hire. The AC Hire program reimburses him 80 percent of the workers’ wages from the date of hire to September 30, 2010. It allowed Hannigan to hire six staffers, from clerical workers to customer support to an office furniture designer. Their salaries range from $30,000 to $60,000 a year.
Hannigan said the progam gives him a head start in hiring and training staff, at a fraction of the normal payroll cost.
“We wouldn't have hired people immediately now given the state of economy, but we know within a year or six months we needed employees,” said Hannigan.
Eynia Oliver is one of those needed workers. She now heads the reception desk as an administrative assistant. Oliver, a single mother of three, said she was laid off last year from a job as an auditor. But after completing a six-week job training program in Alameda County, she was connected to Hannigan through AC Hire.
Oliver says she enjoys her new job.
“Sometimes you don’t understand why you feel the way you do. It’s because you’re not doing anything. You need to be motivated and go out there and take that step and make life better for yourself and your family," said Oliver.
AC Hire is funded by federal money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. California counties currently have more than a billion dollars in stimulus funds for programs like AC Hire. Businesses send a list of their available positions to AC Hire.
AC Hire matches people to the job descriptions and sends them to the employers. If employers choose to hire any of those qualified applicants, federal stimulus dollars reimburse the business 80 percent of those salaries and some employment taxes too.
Hannigan said GSB has gained a competitive edge over others because of AC Hire. He said, “This allows us to get employees fully trained for complex, competitive jobs subsidized by the government, so that prepares us for when economy turns around.”
More than just benefiting as a company, Hannigan said the program is successfully boosting the economy. “We’ve created new jobs. Every one of these people is well paid," he said. "They will go out and spend paychecks. This will develop other companies ability to grow as well. This is the exact reason for the stimulus."
AC Hire focuses on assisting people who are on CalWorks, receiving unemployment, or making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. But it will consider applications from everyone.
Sam Tuttelman, director of the Employment Services Department for Alameda County Social Services Agency, runs AC Hire. said the average wage for workers hired through AC Hire is $12.80 per hour. But some highly skilled technical workers, and even an attorney, have been hired for more competitive salaries. AC Hire uses California labor-market information for salary ranges when it is considering job and salary eligibility.
Tuttelman says so far, 235 people have found employment through AC Hire.
“This is one of those few instances where something that’s too good to be true is really true. In my 30 years of doing this work, I’ve never seen this level of reimbursement for an employer that hires eligible people. I don’t know that we’ll ever see it again,” said Tuttleman.
Congress is currently working on a plan that may extend the reimbursement period but for now, it is set to expire on September 30, 2010.