Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan yesterday announced a pilot program aimed at helping welfare recipients, particularly young single parents, to find and keep jobs.
The program will be called "Project Independence," Hogan said, and its initial 50 volunteers will receive a combination of housing, job training and intensive counseling for 18 months. At that time, participants ideally would be placed in private-sector jobs compatible with their skills and preferences. Hogan acknowledged that most services the participants will receive already are available, but said the effort to coordinate the resources is new.
Hogan said that "billions of dollars are appropriated each year" for low-income housing, job training and welfare. "But there has been no effective attempt on the federal level to coordinate the independent activities of the various agencies which distribute these funds."
Hogan, who is now running for the Maryland Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, said that the same situation exists on the county level and said Project Independence is an effort to remedy the problem.
Hogan said the county has set aside $130,000 in federal job training money under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) for the project, but added that this figure does not include the assistance of staff from existing county programs. The county also will receive rent subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for program participants. In addition, two private research groups will assist the county under federal grants, Hogan said.
Federal rules attached to the job money require that only those people between ages 18 and 21 are eligible, said Deputy Personnel Officer Michael Frank. Participants must be heads of households. Despite the restrictions, about 931 county welfare recipients are eligible, Frank said, and were mailed a questionnaire within the last week to determine their interest. Participants will be selected at random in the next six weeks if the number of interested applicants is more than 50.
Hogan said the program differs from others for welfare recipients because training will be tailored to the individual and the jobs sought are in the private sector. The program will be administered by the county's Private Industry Council, a group of 26 business and community leaders. The council also administers the county's $5.1 million CETA program.
Under the program, recipients will be provided with day care for their children and transportation, Hogan said.
A similar program was launched last fall in Montgomery County to aid the working poor. An analysis of that effort by the Montgomery County Office of Economic Development showed that only one-eighth of the families it was designed to help moved on to higher-paying jobs or full-time training.