Obama signs $38 billion jobs bill
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010
3/19/10 at 4:27 AM
A multimillion-dollar jobs bill signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama aims to encourage hiring.
Some local observers speculate that the law might motivate companies that have been hesitant about hiring to go ahead and commit.
The $38 billion jobs bill includes $18 billion in tax breaks and $20 billion for highway and transit programs.
The tax breaks could generate 250,000 jobs by year's end, a tiny portion of the 8.4 million jobs the economy has shed since the recession began in December 2007.
Under the law, businesses that hire anyone who has been out of work for at least 60 days would be exempt from paying the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax on that employee through December. The government would reimburse the Social Security trust fund for the lost revenue.
Employers would get an additional $1,000 credit for each new worker remaining on the job for a full year.
The package also extends a tax break for small businesses that buy new equipment and expands an initiative that helps state and local government pay for transportation and infrastructure projects.
It is paid for over the coming decade partly by cracking down on offshore tax havens, but it would add $13 billion to the national debt in the coming three years.
"My gut feeling is it will help slightly but won't make a great impact yet," said Adam Thomas, branch manager of Express Employment Professionals in Tulsa.
This is not the government's first attempt to entice employers to hire, said Thomas, noting that other programs have been offered as part of the federal stimulus package.
"The problem is a lot of companies aren't informed on these types of programs so they don't utilize them. That's where it falls short," Thomas said.
Obama said he thought small businesses in particular will benefit.
"Many of them are on the fence right now about whether to bring on that extra worker or two, or whether to hire anyone at all," he said. "This jobs bill should help make their decision that much easier."
Many employers say they want to hire, and even though they sometimes have existing staff who are overloaded, they're having difficulty spending money to hire right now, said Chrisie Bedsworth, director of engineering for the Rowland Group, a Tulsa-based professional staffing firm.
The legislation could act as an incentive to push employers to make a decision, she said.
"I'm excited about anything that has the potential to get people back to work," Bedsworth said.
The new law couldn't come at a better time, said Roy Peters, president of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance. He noted that many manufacturers are beginning to see a return of business, and he is hearing reports of some companies that are working staffers overtime.
But, Peters noted, a manufacturer still will hire only when it has enough business to justify the addition.
"This certainly won't hurt," he said. "It obviously gives an incentive to manufacturers if they're on the bubble."
The law could have a positive impact for the construction industry in general, said Larry Cheatham, vice president of employee services for the Flintco Cos. Inc.
"What drives us as a construction company are just opportunities, or projects, and so as we acquire projects and we need staff, then that certainly would help. It gives companies motivation to go ahead and hire," Cheatham said.
"We have had some cuts here in the last several months because the economy has slowed down, so anything that would help our industry is wonderful," he added.
Denise Hutton, director of the Tulsa Customer Care Center for U.S. Cellular, called the jobs bill "a great incentive for employers."
Said Hutton, "What's great about this is that we know with the state of the economy that there are qualified, talented individuals who are looking for a great place to work. ... We definitely are looking for the best and brightest to come and join our family."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Laurie Winslow 581-8466
President Barack Obama speaks with lawmakers Thursday after he signed the HIRE Act jobs bill in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Seen at rear left are Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif.