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Thousands of Philadelphia workers are at risk of losing their jobs if the “Way to Work Philadelphia!” program, sponsored by federal aid money, is not extended by Sept. 30.

The Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and other supporters of the program plan to spend the next eight days working to educate politicians about the benefits of Way to Work.

Late last year, the federal government appropriated five billion dollars to the states through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Fund. Pennsylvania received $360 million, and in Philadelphia, these funds were put toward the Way to Work program.

A bill in Congress, if passed, would allocate an additional $2.5 billion to the TANF fund.

Started in May 2010, Way to Work Philadelphia! is run by the City of Philadelphia, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation.

Eric Nelson, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, said Mayor Michael Nutter has reached out to U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey to explain the value of the project.

John Dodds, the director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, said Casey is making efforts in Congress to ensure that the program is renewed. However, Nelson explained that “there’s not been a champion to emerge.”

Nelson explained that the bill faces a degree of opposition in Congress. “We live in an environment where people are concerned about adding to the national deficits,” he said. “To many, that seems counter to [recovery] efforts.”

Dodds acknowledged that the country is in a recession but explained that when too much focus is put on the deficit, “helping people get back to work” becomes less of a priority.

According to Nelson, the program has benefited upwards of 13,000 residents in the city.

Through Way to Work, approximately 10,000 Philadelphia youth were able to find summer jobs, Nelson said.

Now that the summer is over, the main beneficiaries of the program are adults at risk of losing their jobs at the month’s end.

The programs established through the Emergency Fund were given an end date of Sept. 30.

Dodds explained that Way to Work is beneficial for both employees and businesses.

“Employees receive jobs and their salaries are paid by the government,” he said. “There’s no overhead on the companies.”

Businesses around the city such as Fresh Grocer and SEPTA employ workers through Way to Work. Employees work between 25 and 40 hours a week and earn completely subsidized salaries up to $13 per hour.

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