Life changing 80/20 Program at risk

FRESNO, California

Attached to the unemployment bill is an extension of the 80/20 Program that's created thousands of jobs in the Valley. The program uses money from the federal government to help employers hire new employees.

Nearly 2000 people in Fresno County have jobs they wouldn't have without the 80/20 Program. And we're not talking about just entry level jobs either.

In this warehouse, Scott Lichtenstein is the boss. The production manager at Nemat Management Group oversees the manufacture of building blocks for high tech industry. But just a year ago, he was at an all-time low.

"I had to go in for welfare," Lichtenstein said. "I was at a point where I didn't have any money. I didn't have enough money to feed my daughter."

Lichtenstein was an early beneficiary of the 80/20 Program in Fresno County. Since he got hired late last year, the federal government has paid 80% of his salary. Mike Nemat pays the other 20%. Nemat has nearly 20 employees from the program.

Without it, his business -- which started in the Bay Area -- wouldn't be thriving in the Central Valley. "We would probably either shut down or keep the business very small and we couldn't expand," he said.

Employers have hired 1960 Fresno County residents since the 80/20 Program launched last August. 1623 of them are still employed. That's an 83% retention rate.

The city of Fresno has used the program to hire Parks and Recreation employees and keep neighborhood centers open.

Pacifica Pizza has used it to expand to new locations.

At Nemat, it's helped manufacture more than just intricate pieces of metal and plastic. It's helped people rebuild their lives.

"Completely life changing," said Lichtenstein. "For me, it's been, I mean, I was really close to being on the streets. I mean, I didn't have a place to live. It took me from being at a really low place to you know, now I can pretty much do anything at this company."

The program will run out of money at the end of September unless it's extended. Nemat says if that happened, he'd try to keep all of his employees but there might be some tough decisions

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