Under Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration, job training funds for unemployed adults and youth are continuing to be cut, raising questions about the mayor’s campaign promise for jobs for low-income, underserved communities.
A majority of the people served by Oakland’s programs – paid for by federal funds distributed by the state – are low-income youth, long-term unemployed and laid off workers, mostly African Americans and other people of color.
Since the 2014-2015 fiscal year, cuts to organizations directly serving low-income youth and adults in Oakland total approximately $1.065 million.
But at the same time, state Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding levels to the city have remained nearly the same.
According to many of the groups working with the unemployed, there is a direct link between the lack of resources to help people become employed and the displacement of African Americans from Oakland.
“The inability to see this connection between jobs and housing is a catastrophic failure of consciousness,” said a job program staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pastor Gerald Agee, past president of Pastors of Oakland, told the Post, “I think Mayor Schaaf is not in touch with all of Oakland – maybe some parts of Oakland but not all of the city – when it comes to the issue of jobs.”
Rev. Cheryl Ward of Liberation Ministries said, “I’ve tried to reach out to the mayor and hold a conversation with her about where things are going, but to no avail. I think she owes a conversation to the community.”
The Post reported last week that federal job funds for year-round youth job programs have been reduced from $1.1 million in 2015-2016 to $886,000 in 2016-2017, a cut of $164,000 or 16 percent.
Since July 2014, the cut has been 33 percent.
The cuts have been implemented even though federal funding has held nearly steady over the past few years, and the state has not yet released what the funding levels will be for 2016-2017, which begins July 1.
This money serves low-income young people who face additional barriers to employment, whether they are teen parents, on probation, homeless or in the foster care system.
The money is dispersed by the city to nonprofits that help youth with job preparation, gaining their high school diploma or other education credential and placing them in a job.
Responding to Post, the Mayor’s Office alleges there have not been cuts to youth programs.
“The Post was incorrect when it reported that this administration has made cuts to youth programs,” according to the Mayor Schaaf’s spokesperson Erica Derryck.
“No cuts have been made to youth programs, nor have any been made to direct services for jobless adults,” she said.
“In fact, the state has not yet announced WIOA funding allocations to the local areas for PY 2016-17. WIOA allocations are typically announced in early May.
“Any reported reductions included in funding level projections for PY 2016-17 are based on estimates, assumptions, and historical data of state funding, along with an abundance of caution around possible funding reductions in the form of rescissions and other across-the-board cost saving measures imposed by the federal government.
“Once the State announces the funding levels, the budget will be adjusted to reflect actual funding levels.”
However, the Workforce Investment Board’s publically published documents contradict the statements from the Mayor’s Office.
In the 2015-2016 budget, direct services provided by nonprofit agencies were cut by 15 percent for youth programs and as much as 24 percent for adult programs, according to the public documents.
In addition, city documents reveal the proposed RFP funding level for 2016-2017 further reduced the funds for youth and adult jobseekers by more than $560,000.
In the past, former Council President Pat Kernighan, along with a majority of council members, said it was time for the city to invest and “put some skin in the game” to assure a successful jobs program in Oakland.
Presently, the city takes about 30 percent of the federal funds for the city staff’s salaries.
Frank Tucker, president of the Bay Area 100 Black Men organization and former chair of the Oakland WIB, said, “The city qualifies for special funding by relying on the work of the non-profit community. And, isn’t it an irony for them to reduce funds to the very organizations that qualify Oakland to receive federal funds?”
“The city with its costly administration erred in taking over the system,” Tucker said. “We need to get closer to the streets and closer to the jobseekers.”