Still, enormous challenges remain as families struggle to climb back into the middle class.
One in 25 school children was homeless at some point last year, and half qualify for free or reduced lunches. Manufacturers are hiring again, but many of the jobs pay $9 per hour, far short of the $20 to $30 hourly wage paid by GM.
Many workers don’t have the communications or math skills that better-paying jobs demand, and federal job training funds are projected to shrink 6 percent to 12 percent in the coming fiscal year. There are 8,000 fewer jobs now than there were a decade ago.
“At one point in time I probably would have said we need to scale back government. Now I see people that are at a loss, they don’t know where to turn,” said Robert Borremans, the head of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, which oversees job-training efforts in Janesville.
People who work closely with the victims of Paul Ryan’s policies are less sanguine.
Community Action officials choose their words carefully when asked about Ryan. He’s willing to listen to their concerns, they say, even as he makes clear that his focus is on federal fiscal issues rather than the immediate needs of his community.
“It’s a question that doesn’t come to the top of his list,” said Lisa Forseth, Community Action’s executive director.
Donna Hays, a nurse practitioner who runs the nonprofit’s women’s health center, is more direct as she puts on her lab coat and stethoscope.
“We sometimes have to ask him if he remembers where he came from,” Hays said.