Would $3,000 Help You Find a Job?

Unemployed since January, Juan Casero was excited to receive a call recently from a human resources manager who showed interest in him for a position at the U.S. District Court in Des Moines, Iowa.

But Casero, who lives in Hialeah, Fla., could not afford to pay the travel expenses he needed to get to the interview, so he had to pass on the opportunity.

Casero is one job seeker who says he would welcome President Bush's proposed plan to give unemployed people who are having a difficult time finding work $3,000 to get a jump-start on finding a job. The plan to create "personal re-employment accounts" is one solution the president has been championing to help the unemployed get back on track.

The proposal, also known as the Back to Work Incentive Plan, drew a lot of attention this spring, when the House Education & the Workforce Committee approved the legislation. Since then, budget concerns have put the proposal on the back burner. But the president has been mentioning the proposal in recent speeches about the state of the economy.

"These accounts will provide a job seeker with up to $3,000 to pay for training, day care, transportation, relocation expenses, whatever it takes to find a new job," Bush recently told an audience in Kansas City in a speech on the economy. "And if they find a job quicker than the allotted time for the $3,000, they get to keep the difference between what they've spent and the $3,000 as a re-employment bonus."

How It Works

The plan, as it's proposed now, would work like this: Individuals who are receiving unemployment and are identified by their state as likely to exhaust those benefits would be able to get up to $3,000 to help purchase services such as job training and employment counseling or support services like child care, transportation or housing assistance. People whose unemployment benefits had expired within the previous 180 days would also be eligible for such an account.

Recipients have up to a year to use their funds, but if they found a job within 13 weeks of establishing the account, he or she would receive 60 percent of the remaining balance. The person would get the other 40 percent after being at the job for six months. So, the faster the recipient found a job, the more extra money he would receive.

To make sure beneficiaries were spending the money on looking for work, they would get their funds through the national One Stop Career Center system, which would either reimburse them for their job search expenses or pay for them directly.

Around 1.2 million Americans would benefit from the accounts, which the government estimates would cost $3.6 billion.

"These accounts, if Congress will act, it will help more than 1 million of our fellow citizen receive the training necessary to become employable, to be able to fill the new jobs of the 21st century," Bush said in Kansas City.

Will the Money Really Help?

Despite the president's optimism, some economists and even some job seekers themselves doubt that a cash infusion, however necessary, would help more Americans find work amid a dismal employment environment.

"I don't necessarily think this is a bad idea," says Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. "We shouldn't think of this as something that's going to lead to job creation, especially in a downturn."

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