By Ken A. Epstein
While $100,000 may seem like a small amount of money in the realm of city and state budgets, those funds could mean a job, an opportunity for something better, for some young people who have caught very few breaks in life.
Yet time is running out for the City of Oakland to make use of a $100,000 grant it received last June from the state to pay for jobs for 20 young people who have run afoul of the juvenile justice system.
The money could be lost if it not distributed to youth agencies and spent by the end of June. The City’s administrative overhead has already reduced the grant to $87,800.
The grant is open to five agencies that are already youth providers for these kinds of funds. Agencies that wish to receive the money must put up some matching funds.
Before the money can be spent, the provider’s contracts must be approved at a meeting of the Youth Council, which recommends final action to the Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB).
The failure of the city to act for seven months to create job opportunities for youth was criticized at Wednesday’s meeting of the WIB Youth Council.
“The whole thing stinks to high heaven. We’re just rubber-stamping this,” said Benjamin Bowser, member of the Youth Council, who was angry that the grant proposal came to the youth council at the last minute.
“Everything is an emergency. What can the Youth Council do if it doesn’t have meetings, and things are not put before it?” asked William “Bill “Patterson, Oakland WIB member and board member of the Oakland NAACP, speaking after the meeting.
“Young people need this money. We have so many people who have returned from jail who need to be helped,” Patterson said. “That grant, like a lot of other money for jobs, has not been distributed.”