Labor Dept. Elected to Strip $10 Million Grants from YouthBuild, Corps Network

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The Department of Labor used its own discretion to vacate two $10 million grants to national youth organizations after a challenge to their selection, and now there is litigation concerning one of the groups chosen in the second competition round, Youth Today has learned.

It is unclear when any of the money will be released to be used for programs to assist dropouts and young ex-offenders in gaining skills that lead to employment.  The money for the Employment and Training Administration project was appropriated more than two years ago.

Youth Today reported last week that two, two-year $10 million grants that the Department of Labor awarded to YouthBuild USA and The Corps Network were vacated in November 2010, six months into the two projects. YouthBuild and Corps Network leadership were informed that the grant review process had been challenged. Both groups were reimbursed for money they had already spent.

The Labor Department decided to re-review all of the original applications, and an undated 2010 announcement on the Department of Labor’s Grants Awarded website indicated the funds would instead go to Public/Private Ventures and the Latino Coalition for Faith and Community Leadership. The coalition is a Bakersfield, Calif. organization whose executive director told Youth Today that the coalition has been “effectively dormant” since March of 2009.

The awards to P/PV and the coalition have not been finalized and no money has been disbursed. [Click here to read our previous story].

In an email this week, Joshua Lamont, a spokesman for the department, wrote:  

*The original review of the grants was done by a “three-person technical review panel, not peer review,” and “YouthBuild USA and The Corps Network were the top-rated applicants in the initial process.”

*The challenge prompted the department to review its selection process and it “determined that the awards were legally defensible,” Lamont said. However, “the agency exercised its discretion to vacate the initial awards and re-evaluate the applications.”

* The same grant review process was used in the second round: three-person technical review panels, rather than peer reviewers. This time, Public/Private Ventures and the Latino Coalition for Faith and Community Leadership “were the top-rated applicants,” Lamont said. Neither of these organizations was the one that appealed the awards to YouthBuild USA and The Corps Network.

*Lamont said: “ETA is aware of allegations” that the coalition is not currently operating because they were “raised by a disappointed applicant. ETA can provide no further information on this question, because it is an issue in pending litigation.” He did not disclose the name of the challenging organization.

Coalition Executive Director Richard Ramos told Youth Today last week that his organization effectively has been dormant since “the middle of March 2009.” He said when the award is 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.”