Testimony to the Committee on Business, Consumer & Regulatory Affairs
Monday, March 7th, 2016
TESTIFYING: Ana Hageage, Director of External Partnerships & Community Schools, LAYC
RE: Department of Employment Services (DOES) Oversight Hearing
Good Morning/Afternoon Committee Chair Orange, Committee members, and members of the Council staff. My name is Ana Hageage and I currently serve as the Director of External Partnerships for the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Columbia Heights and formerly served as the Director of Workforce Investment for three and a half years. LAYC is a long-standing multi-service youth organization with deep ties to immigrant and minority communities in the District.
My testimony is intended to share the impact that DOES/WIOA grants have on our youth as well as highlight some areas where DOES can amend their practices to achieve greater efficiency and community support in the best interest of our young people.
As the single most sustainable funding source for serving disconnected youth, WIOA funds are integral to implementing workforce programming at the community level. After a long period of inactivity, LAYC received a Human Care Agreement (HCA) to serve 50 Out-of-school youth with a potential payment of up to $300,000. We commend DOES on a positive grant negotiations process to date, and we are very happy to have the new Out-of-school contracts. While we are optimistic that this HCA will work, we are concerned that the way this agreement is structured will not allow us to cover all of our program costs and recoup the full $300K.
It is important to share with you a little about the out-of-school population who comes to LAYC seeking support through these Human Care Agreements. Many of them are experiencing traumatic levels of stress on a daily basis and approximately 35% are either homeless or reside in transitional living facilities. 85% are young parents and they are tired, hungry, and under constant worry that their most basic needs are not being met. As a result of our wide-breadth of services, youth are able to establish a safe place in their lives, develop strong relationships with caring adults, and build better lives for their families. We have a young person here today, Karen Privado, who will share her story and what has helped her on her path to earning her GED. Our concern is that DOES and the WIC have not fully considered the extreme barriers these young people face, thereby devaluing the other essential services that LAYC provides such as housing, mental health, and wellness activities to name a few. WIOA funds are meant to reach the hardest to serve yet there are extremely limited local dollars that work in tandem with WIOA to ensure that youth are prepared to focus on work and school. We urge DOES, the WIC, and the Council, to guarantee that the ultimate goals of WIOA are met by restructuring the HCA’s to ensure that no money is left on the table and to provide additional funding streams that work in tandem with WIOA. Doing so will ensure that strong community-based organizations can continue to provide the necessary long-term interventions for a healthy and engaged workforce.
LAYC is also greatly concerned about the future of our in-school workforce programming. The recent WIOA legislation allows for 75% of dollars to be utilized for Out-of-school youth, and 25% for in-school, yet the decision has been made to discontinue grants for in-school youth entirely. Needless to say this will negatively impact our 70+ in-school youth that receive college and career readiness services through this grant. We hope that DOES thoughtfully considers the effect of this shift and works with providers to mitigate the impact this will have on youth by identifying other sources of non-federal funding to continue this work.
Lastly, workforce providers are heavily reliant on WIOA grants to conduct our work on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, payments to providers by are often delayed by 3-6 months if paid via WIRE transfer and are not accompanied with any sort of corresponding invoice detailing what the payment is for. Youth stipends are similarly mishandled; youth are not given a receipt of incentives or stipends paid in addition to not being processed in a timely manner – held up in an unclear bureaucratic process. We are also seeing a trend whereby DOES and other funders have requested that grantees sign up for and be paid through the ARRIBA system. This system charges providers a percentage of each contract processed including youth stipends. Neither our organization, nor our youth can afford to pay a percentage of our money to a middle man. We ask the WIC and DOES to streamline internal communications so that payments to programs and youth are completed in a timely and transparent manner moving forward.
In closing, we have four main requests:
• Augment WIOA dollars via non-federal sources to ensure that the hardest to serve youth are getting the necessary long-term support to succeed in the workforce – we are happy to speak with DOES, the WIC and council members regarding what these interventions might look like.
• Revise structural flaws in the Human Care Agreements that cause providers to leave money on the table that could otherwise go to serving youth
• Sustain the in-school programs either through the 25% allowable through WIOA or other city-appropriated funding
• And ensure that payments to youth and providers are made in a timely and transparent fashion without having to pay a processing fee to the ARRIBA system
We greatly appreciate the opportunities that these contracts afford our participants and we know the city values the LAYC and our contribution to youth development. We look forward to working with the new WIC director and board as a respected partner to sort out these challenges as we share a mutual commitment to the success of our young people. Thank you for your time and please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with further questions.
Director of External Partnerships & Community Schools
Latin American Youth Center