Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson has proposed to curb New Haven’s record unemployment rates, but his plan might prove too costly for the city, officials said.
At a Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, Goldson formally announced a proposal to create the Hiring Incentives for Residents Employment Program, which would require City Hall to provide incentives to businesses that hire city residents. Goldson said he hopes the program will reimburse the first 90 days of salaries for previously unemployed workers, but he said he is willing to work with the full Board of Aldermen to change the details of the plan in order to allow it to pass by June. But some city officials oppose the plan because they said it may burden the city and its taxpayers.
“We’re trying to make New Haven the most job-friendly city in the area,” Goldson said.
Goldson said he expects the proposal will cost at least $20,000, which he said he wants to come from private grants and funds from various city departments.
But Chief of Staff Sean Matteson told the New Haven Register over the weekend that he fears that the proposal will increase municipal taxes.
“This is a piece of legislation that has some holes in it,” Matteson told the Register. “Some are big enough to drive a truck through.”
Goldson said he is generally opposed to increasing taxes but that if the city were to apply only for private funding, the process would take a long time and high unemployment would continue in the city.
City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said increasing employment for New Haven residents is a top priority, but she said the city intends to accomplish this using training programs, such as the current Construction Workforce Initiative, created by Mayor John DeStefano in 2006 to provide construction jobs to New Haven residents.
Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield said he would keep an “open mind” about the proposal but that he thinks raising residents’ taxes to curb unemployment could be “sketchy.”
“I’m not sure it’s good public policy to raise taxes for dedicated purposes,” Goldfield said.
The program would reimburse participating businesses up to $10,000 each. For every previously unemployed worker hired for an entire year, participating businesses would be eligible to receive a grant of up to $5,000 toward the employee’s annual benefits package, according to Goldson’s legislation. To receive these grants, the businesses would have to increase their total number of employees from the previous calendar year.
Goldson said the program would also help to reduce poverty, crime and violence. He added that he would like some of the program funds to be put aside for summer youth employment programs.
The proposal will now be evaluated by a joint aldermanic finance-legislation committee, Goldson said.
In interviews Tuesday, some local residents said a city employment incentive program would be beneficial. Desiree Rogers, an employee at the Davenport College dining hall, said she knew about six unemployed people living in New Haven. Three, she said, had been unemployed since early last year, while the other three were recently laid off. They have been searching for jobs online without luck, Rogers said.
Rogers said she can “hope and pray” the program happens, because “a lot of people are really suffering.”
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for New Haven is 8.3 percent.
Clarification: Feb. 21, 2010
This article failed to provide a precise cost for the Hiring Incentives for Residents’ Employment program. The cost is $4 million.