Did Company Where Emmer Announced Budget Receive Stimulus Money?

Emmer at Permac

There’s been much ado, since Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer unveiled his proposed budget at Permac Industries yesterday, about whether the Burnsville-based precision manufacturing company benefited in any way from federal stimulus money — to which Emmer is vocally opposed — through a local Dakota County-based jobs training program. The DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) quoted Permac CEO Darlene Miller in a press release last week as saying, “The subsidized jobs program has provided us with a wonderful way to identify dedicated and dependable workers.”

According to the CBPP press release, “President Obama and Congress created the federal TANF Emergency Fund that pays for the subsidized employment program as part of last year’s Recovery Act …. with the purpose of providing states with extra resources to meet the increased need for assistance during a recession.”

But at Emmer’s press conference yesterday, Miller denied that Permac had received any federal stimulus money. When asked if federal funds indirectly subsidized her workers through the local Dakota County workforce program, Emmer interrupted Miller, curtly stating, “None of them came from federal stimulus” money.

Was this a game of smoke and mirrors — or simply an example of not following the money trail? I spoke to a press spokesperson at CBPP this morning, who helped clarify whether or not Permac benefited from federal funds. It’s likely that the company did, but that Miller didn’t know it was money that originated in Washington.

According to CBPP Welfare Reform and Income Support director LaDonna Pavetti, Minnesota has had a transitional employment program in place for years: its program predates TANF funds. The Obama administration used TANF funds to expand the existing program. Those funds are allocated to the state, and then go to (Dakota) county. It’s impossible to peg a particular job (at Permac) to a particular funding source, because existing state funds mingle with the infusion of federal funds. But thanks to the federal Recovery Act, Minnesota’s program has expanded greatly, and served many more people. That subsidized job program helped Royal Bissonette land a position at Permac — as highlighted in the CBPP press release. In total, Permac has hired five employees through the jobs program.

The three categories of expenditures allocated federally through TANF are for 1) Basic Assistance, 2) Non-recurrent, Short-term Benefits, and 3) Subsidized Employment. Between FY 2009 and FY 2010 Minnesota received $13,715,660 in Subsidized Employment funds and $90 million overall — money which the state wouldn’t have received otherwise, Pavetti confirms.

At the beginning of 2009, before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus) kicked in, Minnesota was placing 627 people per quarter in jobs. After the stimulus took effect, that number surged to 1,498 added workers per quarter. Meanwhile, Permac’s employee tally has increased to 36 after bottoming out at 23 at the end of 2009.

So has Dakota County — and by extension Permac — benefited from TANF? You do the math.

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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