Labor Department Stripped $10 Million from YouthBuild USA, Corps Network

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A pair of $10 million grants to two national youth-serving organizations designed to help dropouts and young adult offenders gain marketable skills were abruptly vacated by the Department of Labor in late 2010, and ultimately re-awarded to other groups, Youth Today has learned.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the awards from the Employment and Training Administration to The Corps Network and YouthBuild USA in June 2010. Both were for a two and a half year period.

The tentative new grantees – Public/Private Ventures and the Latino Coalition for Faith and Community Leadership – have received sizable federal grants in the past, but have both faced serious financial struggles of late.

The Latino Coalition has actually been inactive since March of 2009, and this grant represents the organization’s first opportunity since then to hire staff and operate a program. In April, P/PV announced its second major round of layoffs in as many years.

In November of 2010, according to Corps Network President Sally Prouty, the grants to both organizations were “vacated by DOL.” She described the action as “abrupt, and to our knowledge unprecedented.”

“They told us the selection process for awarding the grants and their grant review process was challenged,” Prouty said. “Then they vacated the grants, issued new standards for review process, impaneled new reviewers, and ultimately the grants were awarded again.”

The Labor Department confirmed to Youth Today that the grants were vacated and that “all original applications were re-reviewed by new panelists.” The original grants were vacated “subsequent to an appeal,” Labor said in a statement to Youth Today, but the department did not specify who appealed or on what grounds. .

Both of the original grant winners were reimbursed for expenditures made before the awards were withdrawn.

The Corps Network planned to work with 600 formerly incarcerated youth at six of its Civic Justice Corps sites.

“The difficult thing was that new people were hired at the national and local levels” for the project, said Prouty. Labor has funded individual Civic Justice Corps sites, Prouty said, “but this certainly was a huge disappointment.”

YouthBuild USA planned to use the funding to serve 640 young adults through eight different YouthBuild sites.

The two new grantees for the ETA funds are slated to be the Latino Coalition for Faith and Community Leadership, a Bakersfield, Calif.-based intermediary, and Public/Private Ventures, an organization primarily focused on research and evaluation that is based in Philadelphia with offices in New York and Oakland, Calif.

“I didn’t ask and they didn’t say,” said Richard Ramos, CEO of the Latino Coalition, asked what Labor told him about second competition. “I got a call saying it would be re-reviewed and we were back in the running with others.”

The new grantees “will work in partnership with federal and state correctional agencies, local workforce investment boards and community-based service providers to offer a proven array of academic, employment and other re-entry-focused strategies designed to transform the lives of program participants,” according a statement about the grants in the “Grants Awarded” section of ETA’s website.

The grant calls for both entities to fund sub-grantees in five high-crime, high-poverty communities, as required in the original solicitation for grant applications published in the Federal Register on April 5, 2010.

Awards to the two organizations have not been finalized, Labor said in a statement, “so we cannot comment on the activities of the grant.” The two prospective winners were informed that they were selected for the grants in early 2011, but Ramos said he has not heard anything since.

“I don’t know where it stands,” he said. “As far as I know, they’re trying to figure out the appropriations.”

His organization depends on the Labor funding to reactivate. Latino Coalition has not secured a new grant since 2008, Ramos said, and has been effectively dormant since “the middle of March 2009.”

He said once the award was made official, the coalition could hire staff back immediately.

“We have a team of people that are ready to go,” Ramos said. “We will hit the ground running.”

P/PV is one of the most recognized names in research and evaluation of youth-serving programs – particularly efforts to prevent or curb juvenile delinquency – but has faced financial difficulties in recent years. The organization laid off 12 employees in 2009, and another 18 employees in April. A full-time staff of 80 in 2007 has been reduced to a current level of 22.

Of the four organizations, only the Latino Coalition did not pay a firm to lobby on the Department of Labor appropriations for fiscal 2009, the year in which the two $10 million grants were funded. YouthBuild USA spent more than $40,000 during fiscal 2009 on lobbyist firm Robert A. Rapoza Associate, according to online records maintained by the House of Representatives. The Corps Network paid $80,000 to Susquehanna Group, and Public/Private Ventures paid $70,000 to Beacon Consulting Group.

  • Micki Maley

    Research and evaluation, oh goody! I am sure that research and evaluation will teach young people to build houses, plumb those houses, drywall, lay electrical lines, get a GED if needed…oh no wait, that’s what YouthBuild does. Tell me again just what is it that P/PV does? That’s right…research and evaluation.