Program to ease work transition could be continued

Bill to help veterans, the poor and noncustodial parents find jobs passes through House committee

Posted 3/21/16

A bill reauthorizing a transitional work program to help veterans, people over 50 in poverty and noncustodial parents find permanent work is swiftly moving through the Colorado House.

“Unemployment is 3.2 percent right now, which is really …

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Program to ease work transition could be continued

Bill to help veterans, the poor and noncustodial parents find jobs passes through House committee

Posted

A bill reauthorizing a transitional work program to help veterans, people over 50 in poverty and noncustodial parents find permanent work is swiftly moving through the Colorado House.

“Unemployment is 3.2 percent right now, which is really exciting,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada), who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo). “But when you look at that 3.2 percent, there is a group of people who just can’t get employment and we need to find a way to help these people get jobs.”

In an 8-5 vote, the Business Affairs and Labor Committee passed the ReHire bill, which if approved in the Senate, will extend the program until 2021. ReHire targets individuals who are having a particularly tough time finding employment, whether because of prior convictions, health problems, addictions or a lack of resources, or connections to employers in their communities.

The bill now moves to the House appropriations committee.

Funded by the state, ReHire works directly with nonprofits and small businesses. The program partners the two together to help participants gain necessary resources, job skills and employment while giving employers an opportunity to try out an employee at no additional cost.

Crystal Bernal,a mother from Pueblo who testified before the committee, can attest to the program’s success.

After temporarily losing custody of her children through what she called “a traumatic event,” she was referred to ReHire by a social worker. She began the program in October 2014, graduated three months later and found a custodial job at a senior living apartment complex. She also regained custody of her children.

“To be given that second chance to prove yourself to your employer, to society, to your children,” Bernal said, “it means a lot.”

But not all legislators support the bill.

“Colorado’s current unemployment rate of 3.2 percent is well below the national average of 4.9 percent,” wrote Rep. Lang Sias (R-Arvada), in an email response to questions about why he chose to vote against the bill.

“Given these dramatically improving conditions, the  projected cost of the program ($3.6 million over the next two years) and a very tight budget environment (including a negative factor for our public schools),” he wrote, “I don’t believe that now is an appropriate time to be using taxpayer dollars to subsidize wages for private industry.”

Kraft-Tharp, however, says the program’s successes make it worthwhile.

“This program works, even if you don’t like the government helping out,” she said in response to some of the bill’s critics. “If something’s working, you should give it a shot.”

More than 1,100 individuals have passed through the program since its inception in 2013 — 77 percent of who gained permanent employment,Kraft-Tharp and Esgar said.

“This is a program that absolutely every single day makes a difference,” she said. “People are actually being able to get back to work.”

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