“We're looking for alternatives to people hanging out on the streets." -- Gene Krupanski
Sometimes you can go home again: a state task force is using a Franklin Roosevelt-era idea to put people back to work.
The Markell administration’s Work-a-Day Earn-a-Pay Task force heard ideas from a number of community groups during an Oct. 28 meeting at Legislative Hall.
The session was the second meeting for the group, the brainchild of Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington West. The program would be similar to those begun during the Great Depression that put unemployed people to work on projects such as constructing the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, the Redden Forest Education Center and Trap Pond State Park.
The current task force was established earlier this year and charged with setting up a statewide public works program for projects aimed at benefiting the state.
Jobs created under the program would pay between $10.25 and $15 per hour.
Although the General Assembly approved the idea, it declined to provide any funding. Marshall envisions using Delaware Strategic Fund money and forming partnerships between the government and private industry to finance the program.
Administered by the Delaware Economic Development Office, the state’s strategic fund provides low interest loans and grants to help with job creation.
“We don’t need a lot of public dollars,” Marshall told the group. “There’s been a lot of interest in private funding.”
Currently, Delaware’s unemployment rate is pegged at 4.9 percent, compared to 5.1 percent nationally, according to the state Department of Labor.
Task Force chairman George Krupanski, CEO of the Delaware Boys & Girls Club, said the eight-member group wants to focus on individuals who have had trouble finding jobs.
“We’re looking for alternatives to people hanging out on the streets,” he said. The program also could work toward helping individuals recently released from prisons, thus pushing down Delaware’s recidivism rate.
Initial planning will be to determine how the task force will operate and how wide its scope will be, he added. This includes tapping into existing, local programs, he said.
A general consensus for the dozen community members at the meeting was for the group to start small and work its way to larger goals. Suggestions included programs focused on one chosen area in each county. Dr. JoAnn Fields, an advocate for home care for the elderly, suggested people could work as aides to the homebound, earning up to $20 an hour by providing non-medical care for seniors.
Many of the jobs would be industrial, including construction and plumbing work, the group was told. The work could provide training for previously unskilled workers, whose paychecks would go back into the economy, said task force member Rep. Michael Mulrooney, D-Pennwood.
There is a definite need for such a program, noted Ray Good, representing the Rev. Rita Paige of Star Hill AME Church. In addition to teaching how to do a particular job, people also need training in social skills such as teamwork and the importance of being a dependable worker, he said.
“We need to prepare people for success,” Good said. “We need to make sure people know what is expected of them.”
Marshall noted the group will need enlist Markell’s support and focus on the future to avoid becoming “just another program with no long term vision.”
Krupanski said the group will need to look at examples of similar programs for guidance.
“We have a tremendous job ahead of us,” Krupanski said at the end of the meeting. “I think we’ve reinforced that this is a complex issue and that there is a tremendous need. I also think we’ve identified some potential resources.
“It’s been a good discussion.”
Task force members have two additional meetings scheduled for November, both in Wilmington, before they report to Markell on Dec. 4.