City's Back To Work Program Called Into Question
Advocates for New Yorkers on public assistance say the city needs to do more to help those in an expensive back to work program find permanent jobs. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
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Armed with signs and personal stories Wednesday, members of the group Community Voices Heard went to City Hall to demand an overhaul of the city's Back to Work program for welfare recipients.
The groups says the program has failed to effectively move people off public assistance and into the workforce.
"We don't have enough time with career advisors, there is extreme overcrowding at the sites, the job developers are inadequate and don't have the connections to good paying jobs," said James Graham of Community Voiced Heard.
At a City Council hearing on the matter, the group also claimed the work program, run by the Human Resources Administration at a cost of about $53 million a year, does not set clients up for long term employment.
A report by the city's Independent Budget Office showed that more than 56,000 entered the job assistance program last year. Within 30 days about 15,000 of them had jobs. But after six months only a little more than 5,000 were still employed. And after nine months, a quarter of those who had jobs were back on public assistance.
At Wednesday's hearing, council members criticized the program, and the job placement vendors hired by the city. The contracts with those vendors are up for renewal by June 30th.
"I would love to see the contract made much tighter. I would love to see us demand more of these vendors who are doing the job training. If we can get more out of them. We can do better," said City Councilman Bill de Blasio.
"We have the strongest network of employment and training providers in the country. They provide services to people of all abilities. From people who have substantial barriers to employment to people who have less barriers and we think that they do a great job," said HRA Executive Director Seth Diamond.
HRA also took a hit in a report from The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies which said there's been a big increase in the number of people being denied public assistance at the same time the number looking for help has been climbing.
Diamond called that claim unfair and said people who need help get it if they follow the rules.