Council looks at options in wake of fund decrease
Former, current officials say youth programs will be affected
After a decision from the Charles County Board of Commissioners last week to shift funding from the Tri-County Council to other county-centered programs, the Tri-Coun- ty Council is searching for more options to push forward with its summer jobs program.
The county was set to budget $84,000 for the council in the upcoming year with $50,000 going into a summer jobs program for local young adults ages 16-21. But now, after a 4-1 vote, the board is shifting funding into a county summer internship program to reach more participants.
Charles County Commissioner Debra Davis
(D) said this was a move made “without all the facts” by the board of commissioners and was the lone vote of dissent in the motion to shift funding.
Davis was the most recent chairwoman of the Tri-County Council. Her term ended last year.
Along with more funding for the internship program, the county will also be adding an agricultural marketing direc- tor to the county’s Economic Development Department — a goal in the county’s recently approved comprehensive plan.
But former county commis- sioner Reuben Collins, who originally created the summer jobs program, said the commissioners are making a mistake by defunding the Tri-County Council and could hurt many people in the process.
“The focus was on young in- dividuals who may have been ex-offenders, teen moms, those kind of things that could create barriers to employment in many instances,” Collins said. “In some of these cases, these kids weren’t all going to college. This gave them an opportunity.”
The county is “absolutely” choosing to move away from a program that was beneficial to young people, he said. And that does them a disser vice.
Collins originally proposed the program in 2012 and had the county funding $30,000 to Tri-County Council. Commis- sioners unanimously voted to do so. After seeing successes from the initial program, he said, they chose to increase funding to $50,000 to expand its reach.
Unlike the county’s summer internship program, he said, the summer jobs program the council runs does not require individuals to attend college or be a recent high school or col- lege graduate.
“It’s similar to the same program that’s in place in the District [of Columbia],” Collins said. “There was a special focus on low-income young people. And the focus would be to prepare them for the job market. That’s why it was so important.”
But County Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D) said, despite graduation requirements, the county’s intern- ship program is not seeking out a certain type of individual and will welcome whoever applies so long as they meet the criteria.
“I don’t think that’s going to exclude anybody,” Murphy said. “It’s not a non-paying in- ternship program. They will be paid. They will be making money and they will have the oppor- tunity to be mentored.”
Ultimately, he said, it is just an instance where the county government is looking to improve itself. He believes the county can support itself better with money in other places, he said, and are really making this deci- sion “as a courtesy.”
“I don’t expect that if we make any of these changes, that some of the programs that are there, I would certainly hope they’d be able to continue,” Murphy said.
Collins said the county should expand its internship program and should look to add an ag- ricultural marketing position to its economic development department, but “not at the expense of the children” who are participating in the Tri-County Council program.
Ruth Davis, director of the council’s regional workforce program, said the council is al- ways looking for other funding methods and opportunities to increase the reach of its workforce program.
Since the council will no lon- ger receive funding for the program from Charles County, she said, they will have to find other methods and continue to use state money granted by Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) office.
Charles County is regularly required to fund the coun- cil $9,000, but that will not be enough to keep the program moving at the levels it current- ly is, Davis said. The other two counties are only required to fund the council $7,000 annually.
They do not know how much funding they will get from the governor’s office as of yet, she said. In the past, the council has received as much as $44,000 to split between the three counties. But other times, she said, they have only been able to provide each county with $4,000.
“It all depends on what they feel they need to give,” Davis said.
The $50,000 Charles County granted to the council went di- rectly to county citizens. Over the last three years, she said, 104 people have participated in the program. In 2016, she said, 39 people participated.
Of those 39, nine were hired for full-time positions at the end of the summer; four were hired with other employers; three received paid internships; 20 returned to school; one went to the armed forces; another is caring for a child; and another moved out of the county.
“I say all of that to say, the goal for this program has never been full-time employment,” Davis said. “It’s a nice benefit, but the real benefit is getting into a work environment with a real business to see if this career choice is truly what they’re interested in.”
Collins said the program is too beneficial to young people to completely remove from the county’s funding. Davis agreed.
Davis said “many other programs,” just like the summer youth program, will be negatively effected by the board of county commissioner’s actions. “I don’t know why we’re moving so fast,” she said.