By Ken A. Epstein
Agencies working with the city’s Oakland Workforce Investment Board are saying bureaucratic obstacles are choking nonprofit groups that depend on city money to provide counseling and job training opportunities. Particularly hard hit are small nonprofits that help teenagers and young
Speaking at the Feb. 7 WIB meeting at City Hall, agencies said they are still waiting for funding for the current fiscal year. Some have received their contracts as late as January for services that were supposed begin July 1, 2012. Agencies are also asking why they have not received the 20 percent funding advances that are part of their contracts, needed to jump start services until they receive funding for work after it is performed.
“Late contracts, non-contracts, are not a little problem, they are a huge problem. They are a pernicious and persistent problem. It’s time to say you’re going to address the concerns, said Richard de Jauregui, planning director of the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC).
“There is a growing disconnect between this body and its providers,” said de Jauregui, who suggested the WIB hold workshops with the agencies it is funding to learn what they do and how to support their work.
Responding, WIB chairman Bryan Parker said the concerns are legitimate. “I personally, see this is a huge issue. I understand people cannot do their work without (the money).”
William “Bill” Patterson, who represents the Oakland NAACP on the WIB, says he wants the board to understand that the nonprofits are working with young people who are at risk of dying by violence.
“I don’t think anyone here understands the gravity of the situation. This is what your providers have to deal with. There is not enough energy put into giving them the resources they need to do the job.”
Asked about advances, WIB Executive Director John Bailey pledged to take care of the problem, “They have not been advanced. We have been working on a two-week timeline,” starting Feb. 7, said Bailey, who has stated that he is “carrying out the wishes of the mayor.”
“Rather than quibbling about this year’s (advances) to agencies,” said Agnes Ubalde, WIB vice chair who represents Wells Fargo Bank, “The advance policy is something that is going to be handled administratively. The staff is working with the City Controllers Office so we can make sure it is addressed for this one-time advance.”
“It’s not that we don’t want people to get paid,” Ubalde said. But others commented that the program year is more than one half over, and the advances have not yet been issued.
If nonprofits do not have money, Patterson said, “They have to lay people off and wait to see what you are going to do. For the little providers, that knocks them out of the ball game.”
According to some community members, the city and the Mayor’s Office are in violation of Oakland’s 2008 Prompt Payment Policy, an ordinance that requires “payment within 20 business days after receipt of an invoice for purchase of goods and/or services applicable to 1) the city with respect … to non-profit and for profit entities contracted to manage or operate city facilities or public programs or concessions on city-owned property.”
Also raising concerns was Jumoke Hinton Hodge, a member of the Oakland Board of Education who also works for a nonprofit agency
“I understand how important your role is, how much money you are supposed to be ushering into our community so our young people are served,” she said.
“I am a bit dismayed,” she said, questioning “whether there is clarity about what is being done and whether a system is in place.”
Hinton Hodge said she was scheduled to speak that evening at the memorial for a young victim of gun violence. “My children are dying,” she said. I want to work with you.”
“This is potentially a lawsuit,” said West Oakland community activist Ron Muhammad. “Those who are supposed to be served have not been served. We have a whole district (West Oakland) that hasn’t been served in a couple of years.
“Something has to be done. This has set up suicide for some of our agencies.”