Torrance woman who got job through stimulus attends Obama jobs speech

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Kevin Lamarque/AP

President Barack Obama delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was one of President Barack Obama’s guests at the address to Congress last night. But so was 30-year-old Tamara Washington of Torrance.

Washington got to meet the president and first lady at the White House, then sit in Michelle Obama’s guest box to hear the jobs speech.

"I don’t know how to describe it," Washington said. "I was just speechless, but it was an honor."

Washington benefitted from a program that worked in the Obama administration’s first stimulus package. She was unemployed for a while. "I did fall on real hard times to where it was a struggle for me," and her 3-year-old son.

Then, the Transitional Subsidized Employment program placed her in a job with one company. The stimulus program paid her minimum wage for up to a year so the employer didn’t have to, "And that was a stepping stone for me to be able to prosper to where I am at now."

Now, she works for another company — Public Storage — for $7 more per hour, plus commission.

The Transitional Subsidized Employment program put a quarter of a million people to work in 37 states. But it ended almost a year ago, when Congress couldn’t agree to extend the funding.

"It should definitely be a program that should be brought back," Washington said. "Especially when it’s people out there that wants to work and that’s willing to work and that’s capable of working, but they just can’t find something. That program is great."

Tamara Washington was one of about 11,000 people in Los Angeles County who got transitional jobs through the program. But not all those people were lucky enough to keep working when it ended.

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