Last year’s federal funds for youth services and training is mostly unspent in city accounts
By Ken A. Epstein
Since the city has taken control of disbursing federal job funds for services to Oakland youth, over $1.2 million – 83 percent of funding for the year ending June 30, 2011 – has been trapped in the bureaucracy, undistributed to the agencies and young people who need the money.
This means that most of last year’s money, the funding for July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, is still unspent. The city has yet to expend the money that it has received for the current year.
In addition, these agencies did not receive their contracts from the city until this past April, three months before the end of the fiscal year.
Workforce Investment Act (WIA) youth dollars are designed to serve 250 extremely at-risk youth. In 2010-2011, $1,510, 169 was budgeted for these programs, of which $860,000 was meant to pay the agencies and the balance paid in stipends, work experience and direct services, such as bus passes, to young people.
The Oakland Workforce Investment Board staff announced that as of Nov. 9, 1,254,794 was left unspent, 83 percent of the WIA youth funds for 2010-2011. This was the budget for year-round programs. Federal summer job funds are in a separate pot.
Rather than the fiscal year used by the state, the city started its funding for providers in January 2011, which has meant that agencies will not receive funding for programs they operated in the first six months of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
“They have contracts that started effective Jan 1, leaving a six-month gap for which they will not be compensated at all,” said one informed source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“They didn’t actually get their contacts until April but were expected to have started the contracted services in January,” the source said.
“Not one penny of the year-round dollars for 2010-11 was disbursed to youth providers until April,” the source said. “Whatever programs they provided up to that time were carried on their dime. You can imagine the impact on youth providers, especially the smaller ones.”
Local providers of youth services include the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, Lao Family Community Development, Alameda County Health Care Services, Youth Employment Partnership (YEP), Pivotal Point Youth Services and, until recently, Scotlan Youth and Family Center.
“In the past, things were a lot smoother,” said the director of one agency, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, in concern about reprisal from the city. Hopeful that the situation will turn around, the director said, “They are still in their learning curve.
“They have a new staff, and those people are still learning,” the director continued. “There have been delays of contracts and delivery of services to youth. We have been patient with the city. The question is whether they will be able to catch up and whether they’ll be able to function better.”
Less forgiving was William “Bill” Patterson, who serves on the Oakland Workforce Investment Board and the executive committee of the Oakland NAACP.
“They are not answering any questions,” he said. “The public needs to know they are sitting on that much money. Their system is unable to deliver.
“This money should have hit the street in the times of the greatest need. The contractors are trying to front the money, and they may break down and not be able to continue services.”
Patterson said that similar issues exist in the distribution of federal WIA funds for adults, with over one half of last year’s money still “clogged up in the city.”
A longtime activist in the city, Rashida Grinage, Executive Director of PUEBLO, called for putting heat on the city to make it deliver services to young people.
“I know all their excuses, but the time for excuses is over,” she said. “They need to get things in order, and they haven’t done it. If WIB staff can’t do their job, they should be replaced with people who can. It’s up to us to pressure this government to make it responsive.”
John Bailey, Director of the Oakland WIB, was contacted by the Post but declined to comment.