Secure Jobs Advisory Committee
November 18, 2014

 In attendance: Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Debbie Bellucci, STCC, Bud Delphin, CareerPoint, Ken Demers, BerkshireWorks, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Representative Peter Kocot, Lisa Lapierre, CPM, Konrad Rogowski , FutureWorks, George Ryan, Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Alyce Styles, Greenfield Community College, Donna White, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Ken White, Holyoke Community College

Representative Peter Kocot provided a general update regarding the prospect of Chapter 9C cuts (due to automatic income tax reduction as of 1/1/15 and less than anticipated revenues). He said decisions should be made within the next 48 hours. He thinks the Secure Jobs funding will be preserved in whole or very large part.

Monthly Progress Report (Lisa Lapierre):

Click here for the November report. DHCD approved the contract amendment that adjusted our numbers served to more accurately reflect the program’s capacity. Our goals now are: 100 enrollments, 80 entered employed and 64 with year one job retention.

The program is making good progress on working out Hampden County kinks in the referral process and job retention data and follow-up. HAP is now having monthly review meetings with CareerPoint and FutureWorks to take stock of progress and troubleshoot. A “Secure Jobs Rally” was organized last week on 11/14 that included over 70 case managers from all housing providers – CHD, NEFWC and HAP – to foster a greater understanding of Secure Jobs and build energy around quality referrals. The results are immediate with a great increase in referrals. Great job to all the Secure Jobs organizers!

Franklin County Secure Jobs is starting off with Donna Harris of Franklin Hampshire Career Center doing intakes. Referrals are flowing from Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority with the support of Charity Day.

Berkshire County just hired a case manager at CPM, Barbara Villanova, who will start on 11/24. She has fabulous experience and she will be working closely with Ken Demers at BerkshireWorks.

Next up is a “Secure Jobs Expo” that will be aimed at prospective program participants and their families and will include offerings from Secure Jobs and child care partners. CHD is offering space in West Springfield for the event (thanks to Jane Banks!). This will hopefully take place before the December holidays.

After this trial event, the program will look at replication of the same in Franklin and Berkshire Counties.

Lisa shared that overall there is great communication among all the partners with increasingly improved results.

Policy discussion:

Per our last advisory meeting, Lisa, Robin and Jane Banks met to refine the policy barriers facing families who are newly employed and “worse off” due to child care parent fees and MRVP rent calculations. After that meeting, Pamela reached out to Sue Beaton of the Fireman Foundation who generously sought additional information.

Re: child care: From a colleague at CTI, we learned that child care parent fees are set by EEC (there may be some federal parameters or the parent fees chart is included in the state annual plan that is submitted to the feds). There has never been any discussion of waiving fees for families transition off of TANF.

Re: MRVP: From Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein, we learned that utility allowances are not prohibited by regulation or statute but that it would have a significant cost impact. Child care payments are deductible from income so long as the care is necessary for a work-related reason.

Lisa shared the story of “Stephanie” who is employed at $13.45/hour and while initially her parent fee was at $64/week. MRVP recalculated her rent portion based on this cost and her rent was reduced by $64. But then under the latest EEC assessment, Stephanie’s parent fee was raised to $87/week. 70% of Stephanie’s income goes towards rent and child care.

We agreed that the complexity of MRVP makes working on the child care parent fee a more likely target of our efforts. EEC does not take into account the cost of housing, but looks at parent fees in a vacuum. We need to build that awareness towards change.

This problem is coming more to light now because this is the first time we are tracking families past the one year job retention mark (when reassessments take place). These issues go to the gap between earning just over the minimum wage and what it actually requires to become sustainable. As a policy matter, we are pulling away supports too soon, threatening a family’s return to homelessness and creating a disincentive to work (e.g., if Stephanie quit her job, her entire rent would be paid under MRVP).

This is a cross-agency issue that requires intervention on multiple levels.

Brainstormed next steps:

  • Pamela will touch base with Sue Beaton to discuss the prospect of a statewide Secure Jobs meeting with the Governor-Elect’s transition team.
  • Lisa will work with Toni to collect data on the number of families who are experiencing this issue (received TANF that ended; have preschool children in need of child care). We realize we need concrete numbers to go with the anecdotes: how many families are at risk of returning to homelessness due to these policy barriers. Ideally, we will collect this data across all Secure Jobs program. We will start with our region and deliver a summary of the problem and our findings to other programs to generate further discussion.
  • Consider developing a pilot project of an “anti-poverty work incentive program” that allows 5 years to transition from welfare to the workforce. Robin Sherman believes that Governor-Elect Baker indicated interest in time-limited housing assistance that would provide enhanced support for a shorter period of time. We all acknowledged the complications and risks in this concept (but what if the family is not in fact “ready” in 5 years, then their subsidy is terminated and they end up in the same boat of possible return to homelessness…)but that it is worthy of further discussion.

Second Annual Secure Jobs Celebration

Pamela confirmed that the date is set for Friday, Feb. 6, 10 am – 11:30 am. She has begun outreach to our region’s legislators and has received positive responses from Senator Rosenberg, Senator Humason, Rep. Kocot, Rep. Vega, Rep. Scibak, Rep. Cariddi, and Rep. Mark thus far. Of course it is impossible for them to firmly commit yet but it is on their calendar. Pamela will continue with outreach to legislators and local officials.

We agreed it is time to start thinking about employers to honor and other program participants. Pamela will convene a meeting of Secure Jobs partners to conduct further planning.

Announcement: Secure Jobs submitted an application to present at the statewide CWC conference on May 7. The workshop will feature the collaboration of Secure Jobs with the region’s 4 career centers. Thank you, Ken and Lisa, for facilitating this.

Next meeting:   Tuesday, 12/16 – 3:30 – 5 pm. Pamela will confirm HCC location.

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