Idaho will find a way to create 6,000 new jobs so welfare recipients can be required to work, the directors of the state departments of Labor and Commerce said Friday.
“I think it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to these folks,” said Roger Madsen, state labor director. “I’m really excited about it.”
The Labor Department will work closely with the state Health & Welfare Department to find jobs, “aggressively working with private business,” Madsen said. So far, the response from the business community has been encouraging, he said.
“Any job is better than welfare or no job at all. Initially, it’ll probably be entry-level,” Madsen said.
But he said some welfare recipients have skills that will allow them to move up quickly.
Idaho’s Workforce Training Program, which helps fund employee training for companies either moving or expanding here or trying to avoid layoffs, will also help welfare recipients indirectly.
“As employees are trained to take a higher-skilled job, it makes more room at the bottom as these people move up,” said Tom Arnold, state commerce director.
Arnold said Idaho needs to create 20,000 jobs a year just to keep up with the demand, including providing jobs for young people who are just finishing school.
The added jobs needed for welfare recipients “just makes our job a little bit harder,” he said.
Under federal welfare reform requirements, 25 percent of Idaho’s welfare recipients must be working at least 20 hours a week by next fall. Fifty percent would have to work at least 30 hours a week within five years.
But Idaho’s welfare reform plan goes even further, requiring all welfare recipients to work, finish high school or receive job training. The only exceptions are for new moms within 12 weeks of giving birth; people who are incapacitated or caring for those who are; or for parents of young children for whom no child care is available.
Arnold and Madsen spoke during the taping of KTVB-TV’s “Viewpoint” public affairs program.
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