By Ken A. Epstein
The City of Oakland has sent back $600,000 in federal funding to provide job training for laid-off workers that it failed to utilize for two years.
The loss of funding was not made public until this week, when Vice Mayor Larry Reid asked for staff to prepare a report on what happened to the money at the Tuesday meeting of the City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee.
The city received the federal National Emergency Grant funds in 2010 during the last months of the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums. The money was returned to the state, which administers the funding, between December 2011 and September 2012, according to Post sources.
The original grant application from the city specified that two organizations, Volunteers of America and Youth Employment Partnership, would implement the services. However, no contracts were executed by the city to fulfill this intent.
At press time, the Post had not received answers to questions from the Office of Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana or John Bailey, executive director of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board.
The city’s responses will be included in part two of this story.
In requesting the report from staff, Reid asked, “What job funds have been returned to the state or the federal government for the city’s failure to utilize them?”
In addition to questioning the return of the federal job training, Reid also asked for a public hearing on the functioning of the city’s workforce investment system, as requested in a Dec. 12 letter to the City Administrator from Bill Patterson for the Oakland Branch of the NAACP.
“Given that there was $600,000 given back to the state when we have heightened crime, chronic unemployment and communities in dire straits, it’s unacceptable,” said La Tronda Lumpkins, executive director of Pivotal Point Youth Services in West Oakland, a provider that receives funding from the Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WB).
Lumpkins, who spoke at the council committee meeting, said her agency has been suffering because it is delivering services to young people but did not receive its contract from the city for this fiscal year that started July 1 in a timely way nor the advance in funds as was part of WIB policy.
“We actually just received a signed (contract) this month. With that delay comes a delay in payments (to Pivotal Point),” she said. “It has a devastating impact on small nonprofits.”
Bill Patterson, who represents the NAACP on the WIB, said in an interview, “Mr. Reid (is) raising some very important issues that need additional public scrutiny. We know the link between public safety and people having hope and opportunity in our labor market.”
“The trend over the past few years has worked to the extreme disadvantage of small nonprofits and the people those nonprofits serve,” said Patterson.
“It is particularly the small nonprofits that can reach out to those who are most in need and most marginalized,” he continued.
“And it is these small nonprofits that are not being helped, supported or uplifted in the current situation.”