By Amy Lester, Oklahoma Impact Team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- In a time when it's tough to find a job, a stimulus program encourages companies to hire new employees. Thanks to the program, 892 Oklahomans got back into the workforce.
"I don't lose my home, my kids can eat, it means everything because I've got to work, you know, it's everything," said Dotti Jones.
Jones is a welder at Kingfisher Kookers. She was laid off when the company's sales dropped. She was rehired with stimulus dollars, two months earlier than she expected.
"I am very thankful. Two months might not seem like much, but, to make a house payment or to keep your kids fed or keep them light in the home, two months is an eternity," said Jones.
Kingfisher Cookers is one of 150 companies that hired people through this program. The Department of Human Services created it and it's called Subsidized Employment Program. The federal government agreed to fund it with $12 million stimulus dollars.
"I think it's an excellent use of stimulus dollars. I feel like this is a program that actually does what the economic stimulus dollars were intended to do," said Paulette Bushers, D.H.S. Programs Field Representative.
The program is pretty simple. Companies hire an employee and the government reimburses them for 100% of the person's pay for the first month, up to $12 an hour and forty hours a week. Then, the government reimburses for 50% of months two through four. If the employee stays on past the fourth month, the government gives the company a full reimbursement for months two through four.
Express Employment Professionals hired hundreds of people, under this program, and placed them in companies all over the state.
"At the end of the day, we were really happy that the program was in place and I know it helped us put nearly 400 people to work that wouldn't have otherwise had a job," said David Lewis, Regional Manager for Express Employment Professionals.
So, will companies keep employees on after the four month subsidy ends? It appears so, at least for now. 80% of the employees have stayed on past four months.
"We're hoping for a long term fix because a lot of employers have actually been able to grow their business by utilizing this program and been able to build their business and generate more profit in order to keep the employees on," said Paulette Bushers, D.H.S. Programs Field Representative.
Coordinators at D.H.S. were hoping Congress would extend funding for programs like this. But, that didn't happen. So, there's no more stimulus money available for this program.