City council members have set aside $100,000 in federal funds to run a summer youth employment program that would provide jobs to 100 young people for minimum wage; however, mayor Jose “Joey” said the city will not be able to start the program because it was never authorized by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, has been pushing for the program that would take city juveniles off the street during the heated summer months, when violence is more prevalent than other times of the year, but his efforts were frustrated by the Torres administration.
Morris on Tuesday evening wanted to reduce funding from Torres’ much touted prisoner re-entry program in the 2016 one-year annual action plan submission to HUD.
$180,000 is set aside for the William H. Butler Help Center re-entry program. Morris wanted to take $100,000 from there for the summer jobs program and leave $80,000 for the re-entry program.
“I have real issue that we’re willing to spend close to $200,000 for this re-entry program, but we’re not willing to spend money on keeping our young people out of jail,” said Morris.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, said the $180,000 is not to run the program, but to repair a building that will house the re-entry program.
“This is a very important, this re-entry program. I think it’s needed in our community,” added William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
Cotton and McKoy managed to convince Morris not to gut the re-entry program. McKoy suggested re-allocating funds that were set aside for consultants to run the Paterson Pride Program, a low-income home rehabilitation program.
$439,413 was allocated to the home rehabilitation program which was slashed by $100,000. “For some reason the administration refused to fund the summer jobs program,” said Morris. He said he was told the funding was not available for his program, so he made funds available.
“We told him it couldn’t be done,” said Torres. He said the one way it could be done was by tying in the Passaic County Workforce Investment Board.
Morris said that will only create 20 employment posts for Passaic County residents not just for Patersonians.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said that program will create 40 jobs.
Making the $100,000 available for the program may not be enough to get the summer employment program off the ground. “His summer jobs program will not be able to get done because it was not a program approved by the funding agency,” said Torres.
“At the end of the day all we want to do is employ young people. All we want to do is get young people off the streets to a meaningful activity during the summer so it keeps them out of trouble,” said Morris. “We keep them out of trouble, we won’t have a need for a re-entry program.”