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Cleveland City Council funds workforce development initiative, Say Yes program

Cleveland City Council's January 24 workforce, education, training and youth development meeting.
Conor Morris
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland City Council's Jan. 24 workforce, education, training and youth development committee meeting.

Cleveland City Council approved a new $10 million workforce development initiative Monday, a new-to-Cleveland, collaborative approach across multiple partners intended to build a pipeline to train new workers.

The initiative specifically is seeking to fund job training for 3,000 workers over the next four years, with the majority of those workers being people of color and women. The project would also support growth opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

City Council also approved $600,000 for Say Yes Cleveland to help it bridge a funding gap for its family support specialist program.

That program puts specialists in Cleveland Schools to help students and families access wrap-around services. The funding council approved will help keep the support specialist program running for about three weeks, but it does not resolve longer-term concerns about the program’s financial sustainability.

The family support specialist program still needs $2.9 million in funding to keep it running through the summer. The shortfall was created last yearafter the county severely cut its funding. The county said it was not getting reimbursed as promised with federal money meant to keep young people out of the foster care system. The state said that funding said could not be used to fund Say Yes Cleveland.

The Say Yes request and the workforce development are funded by American Rescue Plan Act money andboth faced scrutiny during a Cleveland City Council committee meeting concerning how to determine whether they're successful, as well as a desire for more accountability from the partners seeking the funding.

Council member Richard Starr during Monday’s meeting said he supports the workforce development initiative, but said he wanted to see additional accountability from project partners.

“I look forward to being able to work with Ohio Means Jobs, Urban League and all those different individuals so we can make sure after those four years we actually deliver on making sure we have 3,000 people actually working in a trade initiative so that they can be able to help our city," he said. "We desperately need that support."

Both ordinances had some new requirements added after feedback from council members like Starr. The workforce development ordinance requires a quarterly report from partners and further accounting of how money would be spent.

Say Yes leadership must report quarterly how it helps families, and provide its long-term financial outlook. Council members had questioned about the financial sustainability of the $9.3 million per-year program.

Diane Downing, the program’s executive director, said the city and Say Yes are advocating at the state level for Say Yes to again be eligible for the foster care funds, hoping for that to be the main funding source for the family support specialist program.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.