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If nonprofits get a piece of the city's massive workfare system, they'll have to prove their job creation prowess first–even if the city doesn't hold itself to that standard.

When the next round of Work Experience Program (WEP) contracts begins in July, nearly half of the funding given to local nonprofits will be directly tied to the success groups have in finding real jobs for the participants–the kind that substitutes paychecks for welfare checks.

The city has refused to report statistics indicating how many WEP participants working for city agencies have eventually found employment, let alone how long those new jobs have lasted.

“We recognize we're asking for a lean and efficient program,” said Seth Diamond, head of the city Human Resources Administration's employment services division. At a well-attended January 7 meeting for agencies interested in applying, HRA officials announced plans to award three-year, $125,000-per-year contracts to eleven nonprofits. Each organization would have to manage approximately 300 WEP “slots.”

Currently, six organizations hold city contracts managing a total of nearly 2,500 workfare slots. They farm out many of the assignments to other nonprofits, placing welfare recipients in unpaid clerical, maintenance and community service positions. According to the Independent Budget Office's latest figures, the city gave the agencies $465 per WEP slot in 1996.

The new contract averages out to $417 per assignment–and it also includes a $1,000 bonus for every WEPer placed in a real job. But if a contractor fails to place 75 workfarers in paid positions lasting at least 90 days, they can be penalized.

Many nonprofits think the contract is not worth the headache. “You can't do what they're asking you to do with the money they're offering,” said Nancy Biberman, the president of WHEDCO, a Bronx-based job training agency. “I know what it really costs to get someone a job–and it's more than they think.” Still, the city only needs 11 partners, and many representatives at the meeting said they planned to submit a proposal by the January 23 deadline.

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