Just when you thought job prospects in the city couldn’t get much worse …
Community groups that train out-of-work New Yorkers, including ex-offenders and those with limited English, for jobs in industries from hospitality to cable maintenance are getting two-thirds less funding from the city this fiscal year.
On July 16, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially announced the shift of the city’s adult workforce program from the Department of Employment (which is now defunct) to the Department of Small Business Services, the administration told its contractors that funding for Special Population and Dislocated Worker programs would be slashed by 67 percent.
“It’s very difficult for providers to run programs with that large of a cut,” said Bonnie Potter, executive director of the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, a trade association for job training providers. “Even for those who can run, the cuts make it very difficult for them to perform well,” especially if they’ve already planned for larger classes.
Last year, the programs had $151 million to support job training and placement services. Those were more flush times thanks in part to the $57 million in Workforce Investment Act funds that the Bloomberg administration inherited from his predecessor, and had to use quickly or risk losing to the state. On top of that, the city received $21 million from Albany to compensate for federal budget cuts to WIA.
“In the toughest times, we were spending money,” said Robert Walsh, commissioner of DSBS. “The bad news is that it was an artificial budget.” The $58 million his agency has now is more realistic, he said, and is more in line with prior years’ spending.
Still, this situation is expected to force the 39 city contractors that provide adult job training to drastically reduce their client base and their services.
“We’ll have to turn clients away,” said Andrea Vaghy of Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, which trains immigrants in Washington Heights. “There’s so much demand for services we can’t even begin to meet the demand. These cuts don’t help.” The Osborne Association, which works with ex-offenders, expects to cut its clients from 359 to 163.
Walsh said he plans to meet with contractors over the next few weeks to begin establishing more effective and efficient workforce development programs. His focus moving forward is on both individual contractors and one-stops, city centers which provide everything from assessment to training to placement. (There are currently three.)
Vaghy certainly hopes things change. Predicting that evictions and the number of people on public assistance would rise, she said, “This is very shortsighted, they’re not thinking about what this means.”