During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to double the federal Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program, known as JARC.
The JARC program was established to aid low-income Americans seeking to obtain and maintain employment. Under the program, states, other public entities, nonprofits and transportation authorities may receive funds to help pay for capital and operating expenses for projects that transport low-income individuals to and from jobs or for "reverse commuting." Many entry-level jobs are located in suburban areas that can be hard to get to from urban or rural neighborhoods, especially during off-peak commuting hours.
The program, initially funded at $14.1 million in fiscal year 1999, rose to $165 million by fiscal year 2009.
A Transportation Department spokeswoman said that keeping this promise will wait until a new transportation reauthorization bill materializes. But that could take awhile.
Typically, every five or six years, Congress passes a new "authorization" bill that sets transportation priorities every five or six years. The most recent one expired Sept. 30, 2009, and it has been extended twice -- with its current provisions unchanged -- in order to give lawmakers time to craft a new version. The most recent extension runs through Dec. 18, 2009, and it is widely expected that another extension will be needed.
The problem is that lawmakers and the White House differ over the basic shape of the next reauthorization bill, especially whether Congress should act immediately on a major, multiyear reauthorization or instead enact a medium-term extension, perhaps lasting 18 months. The continuing burden of other urgent legislative priorities -- from health care reform to climate change legislation to financial regulation and job-creation -- makes passage of a new reauthorization bill, and any additional support for programs like JARC, unlikely any time soon.
JARC may indeed get its boost some day, but with the reauthorization bill in limbo, this promise is in limbo, too. We rate it Stalled.