While job growth has been improving nationwide since the Great Recession, many Americans are still struggling to find work.
Jamie Gullen, an employment attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, said many of her young clients can’t get jobs because they have criminal records.
She recently met a woman living with her baby in a homeless shelter.
“She had gone on many, many job interviews, but had been rejected from places like McDonald’s, from clothing stores, because she had a 2014 misdemeanor conviction for a marijuana possession case,” Gullen said. “And she just kept being turned down over and over again.”
Gullen and her colleagues at Community Legal Services, an advocacy group that assists low-income families, are teaming up with Redeemed PA to launch a campaign urging the city and state to create a robust subsidized jobs program by tapping several funding sources.
For example, the organization has found the state could put more of the welfare funding from the federal government toward helping people get paid work experience, as opposed to just offering job training. Other sources could include U.S. Department of Justice funding for prisoner re-entry programs and community economic development grants.
Campaign organizers acknowledge there is no single funding source that could create the strong program they’re seeking. However, they hope that by raising awareness and stepping up public support, they can convince state and local officials to cobble together enough money to create more opportunities for the unemployed.
“The jobs would be full time, and the goal would be for it to be a combination of public jobs, such as infrastructure and parks and recreation jobs, as well as providing subsidies to private employers to be able to hire more employees,” said Gullen. She said even temporary paid work experience would make a bigger difference for people in poverty such as her client in the homeless shelter.
“She doesn’t have any prior work experience because she just graduated from high school recently, so giving her that first job is really pivotal to increasing the opportunities she’ll have over her lifetime,” she said.