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County Passes On Federal Jobs Grant

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj_wawuA-BE

Video published July 16, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: There's no job in San Diego for one out of every 10 workers and millions of federal dollars are available to create many jobs. But our county didn't go after that money. We find out why not.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

THOUSANDS OF CALIFORNIANS ARE BEING PUT BACK TO WORK THANKS TO A GRANT FROM THE FERM GOVERNMENT. BUT NONE OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY'S UNEMPLOYED CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITY. SAN DIEGO COUNTY DECIDED NOT TO APPLY FOR THE FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDS, AN ESTIMATED 11 TO $18 MILLION LOST. WE ASKED JASON EVERETT, RESEARCH AND POLICY ANALYST FOR THE CENTER ON POLICY INITIATIVES WHY THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN A PRIORITY.

IN SAN DIEGO, RIGHT NOW, WE HAVE AN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE OF 10%. THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF SAN DIEGOANS ARE OUT OF WORK, AND THEY ARE LOOKING. AND THIS WAS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE COUNTY TO GET MONEY THAT WAS BASICALLY BEING HANDED TO THEM, FREE MONEY. THE INSPECTOR GENERAL WHO OVERSEES THE PROGRAM SAID SHE WAS SHOCKED THAT SAN DIEGO DIDN'T GO AFTER THAT MONEY BECAUSE IT'S PROBABLY THE EASIEST, MOST RISK FREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE COUNTY TO GO GET MONEY, TO PUT PEOPLE BACK TO WORK. AND THE IMPACT OF THAT IS HUGE. PEOPLE ARE NOT ON SOCIAL SERVICES BECAUSE THEY CAN PAY THEIR OWN BILLS. THE BUSINESSES ARE PRODUCING MORE, AND EARNING MORE INCOME. AND THE INDIVIDUAL HAS THE DIGNITY, THE SELF-RESPECT OF HAVING A JOB. SO THE IMPACT IS HUGE.

VOICE OF SAN DIEGO.ORG BROKE THIS STORY THIS WEEK, AND JOINING ME NOW TO DISCUSS HOW THIS GRANT WOULD HAVE MEANT JOBS IS SCOTT LEWIS, CEO OF VOICE OF SAN DIEGO.ORG. SO WELCOME, SCOTT.

THANKS, GLORIA.

AT THIS POINT, WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT HOW THIS GRANT WOULD HAVE WORKED?

BASICALLY, THE FUNDS WOULD HAVE BEEN USED TO SUBSIDIZE BUSINESSES THAT WANTED TO HIRE EMPLOYEES, BUT NECESSARILY COULDN'T HANDLE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOW MUCH MONEY THEY HAD AVAILABLE TO PAY THEM AND HOW MUCH IT WOULD ACTUALLY COST TO. SO FOR EXAMPLE, IF A BUSINESS ONLY HAD $2 AN HOUR AVAILABLE FOR AN EMPLOYEE, OBVIOUSLY THAT'S ILLEGAL TO HIRE SOMEBODY THAT LOW. BUT THE COUNTY THROUGH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STIMULUS COULD HAVE BRIDGED THAT DIFFERENCE FOR THEM AND PUT THOSE PEOPLE TO WORK. YOU KNOW, L.A. USED THE PROGRAM, GOT, YOU KNOW, $62 MILLION, AND USED THAT TO HIRE --TO PUT ABOUT 8,000 PEOPLE TO WORK.

WHEN BUSINESSES ARE HELPED TO PAY EMPLOYEES, WHAT KIND OF EFFECT DOES THIS HAVE ON THE ECONOMY IN GENERAL, AND I'M THINKING ABOUT ALL THE REST OF US WHO WOULDN'T BE BENEFITTING BY HAVING OUR SALARIES PAID?

WELL, YOU KNOW THAT'S THE ISSUE. I THINK THAT THE MONEY WOULD MAKE THE BUSINESSES MORE PRODUCTIVE AND HOPEFULLY THEN TO THE POINT WHERE THEY WOULD JUSTIFY BEING ABLE TO PAY THAT PERSON ON THEIR OWN. AND THAT'S THE ISSUE. THE COUNTY SAYS THAT IT WASN'T CLEAR WHAT KIND OF STRINGS WOULD COME ATTACHED WITH THIS AND THAT THEY MIGHT BE REQUIRED TO PAY SOME OF IT BACK IN THE FUTURE OR THAT IT WAS JUST UNCLEAR. THE QUESTION, THOUGH, COMES, THEN WHY IF IT WERE UNCLEAR OR RISKY WAENT THE COUNTY SUPERVISORS OR THE LEADERSHIP OF THE COUNTY ALLOWED TO MAKE THAT DECISION. THE COUNTY SUPERVISOR RON ROBERTS WHO IS RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION, WHOSE TOP PRIORITY HE SAYS, IS TO CREATE JOBS, WANTS TO KNOW WHY HE WASN'T ALLOWED A CHANCE TO WEIGH IN ON THE DECISION.

WHAT KIND OF OVERSIGHT OR COMMUNICATION IS THERE WHEN A DEPARTMENT MAKES A UNILATERAL DECISION THAT WOULD HAVE MAJOR IMPLICATIONS FOR THE COMMUNITY?

I THINK THAT'S WHAT WE'RE EXPLORING. NOW WE'RE SEEING A LOT OF TALK, AND THEY ARE EXPLAINING THEY HAD 30 CONFERENCE CALLS TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHY OR HOW THEY COULD USE THIS MONEY, AND DECIDED ULTIMATELY IT WOULDN'T WORK. SO YOU KNOW, DO YOU NEED TO HAVE THAT MANY CONFERENCE CALLS OR DO YOU NEED TO --WHAT HAPPENED, I THINK, IS WHAT'S ACTUALLY COMING OUT NOW, AND EVERYBODY IS TRYING TO DECIDE IF THIS WERE A DECISION THAT'S DEFENSIBLE OR NOT. AND THAT'S THE KIND OF DISCUSSION WE NEED TO HAVE. I DON'T THINK IT'S ALL TOGETHER CLEAR THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE DEFINITELY GONE FOR THE MONEY. IT'S JUST THAT A DECISION WAS MADE NOT TO, AND NOW MONEY IS NOT COMING IN. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHY.

I'M LOOKING AT SOME OF THE COMMENTS BY THE SUPERVISORS. SUPERVISORS JACOBSON COX SAID THE STAFF HAS GONE A GREAT JOB ON GETTING GRANTS, AND SUPERVISOR HORN FEELS ASSURED BY WHAT THE DIRECTOR OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES HAD TO SAY. SO WHEN YOU HAVE AT LEAST THREE OF THE FIVE SUPERVISORS SAYING IT'S OKAY FOR ME, WHAT CHANCE IS THERE FOR ANY KIND OF A CHANGE?

I THINK THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION. SOME OF THE REPRESENTATIVES SAID THEY WERE TROUBLED BY THIS. I THINK THE COUNTY OF SUPERVISORS ARE IN AN AWKWARD POSITION WHERE THEIR JOB IS TO SUPPORT HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AND WELFARE ISSUES LIKE THAT, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THEY ARE OPPOSED IN MANY CASES TO THE EFFORTS. SO THEY ARE ALWAYS IN A CONTRADICTORY, AWKWARD POSITION, AND I THINK THEY ARE INCLINED TO TRUST THEIR STAFF, AND THEIR STAFF HASN'T LET THEM DOWN OFTEN, BUT I THINK SOME ARE SAYING THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO PRIORITIZE.

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