Baltimore Sun

Baltimore employment director to resign

Perkins-Cohen oversaw changes after unrest from Freddie Gray death

- By Dan Belson

Jason Perkins-Cohen will leave his longtime position as director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Developmen­t next week, according to the mayor’s office.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Tuesday accepted Perkins-Cohen’s resignatio­n, which takes effect March 21, according to a news release. MacKenzie Garvin, the office’s current chief of staff, will become the acting director of the mayoral office.

Perkins-Cohen said in a statement it was a “tremendous honor” to head the office and “bring truth to our shared value that every resident deserves the opportunit­y for meaningful work and a hopeful future.”

“I wish Mr. Perkins-Cohen all of the best in his future endeavors, and it has been my honor and privilege to watch the transforma­tion of this office over the years,” Scott said in the statement.

Previously the director of the Job Opportunit­ies Task Force, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that focuses on low-wage workers, Perkins-Cohen was appointed by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to head the employment developmen­t office in February 2015.

The mayoral office largely restructur­ed following the unrest stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, which erupted shortly after Perkins-Cohen was appointed to the post. His office oversaw the distributi­on of $5 million in federal job training grants issued to the city in response to the unrest.

The office used the federal funds to target “disconnect­ed” youth by creating new city employment programs such as One Baltimore for Jobs, and by largely expanding city offerings such as the summer YouthWorks program. Years later, he supervised fixes to the youth summer employment program when a city audit found it was paying some participan­ts for work they didn’t do.

When COVID-19 suspended summer job programs nationwide, Perkins-Cohen’s office continued offering a scaled-back version, bringing back a hybrid model in 2021.

The employment office also helped to relocate students at a job training center previously headed by Mayor Catherine Pugh, which closed its doors when it was raided by federal agents investigat­ing Pugh and her associates. The former director of the Maryland Center for Adult Training later pleaded guilty to tax fraud charge and was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison.

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