Budish Administration unveils County Youth Internship Program in HHSA Meeting

At the April 5, 2017 meeting of the Cuyahoga County Council Health, Human Services and Aging Committee, members heard two pieces of legislation. One was the renewal of a contract with the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office, and the second was a rebranding of one of Cuyahoga County’s signature programs.

The first piece of legislation involved the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office, which has had a long-established contract with Cuyahoga County Child and Family Services. According to Bob Math, who represented Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, the county provides a $2.3 million contract to the prosecutor’s office in exchange for legal services. Staff attorneys accompany social workers to court on behalf of the social workers’ clients, when court action is needed for the safety and well-being of the child. The contract began on January 1, 2017, but it is just coming before the committee due to negotiations between the prosecutor’s office and the Department of Job and Family Services (JFS). The contract was passed out of the committee and recommended to the full council for consideration.

Next was a presentation from David Merriman, JFS administrator, requesting approval of a $9.15 million contract with Youth Opportunity Unlimited (Y.O.U.) that would run from April 1, 2017, until December 31, 2017. For several years, Cuyahoga County has allocated money for the Cuyahoga County Youth Employment Program, a partnership with Y.O.U. Last year, CCS wrote a blog post on the expansion of this program from 14-17 year olds to include 18-24 year olds. Based on the high level of interest in last year’s program, and the desire to maximize the impact, JFS is expanding the Youth Employment Program and rebranding to the Cuyahoga County Youth Internship Program. The goal is to increase the number of young adults, both 14-17-year-olds and 18-24-year-olds with jobs that will give them work experience. For youth 14-17, these jobs are positions that will give them the opportunity to work, gain income, and keep them in a busy work lifestyle during the summer months. Young adults who are ages 18-24, who are not planning to attend college and do not have a permanent job (also called “opportunity youth”), will be given jobs that will give them experience in the marketplace, as well as the possibility of gaining full-time employment with that company.

In the past, JFS contracted with Y.O.U. directly to administer the program. Because of the limited dollars, Y.O.U. was not able to accept everyone who applied who could be given employment opportunities. This year, JFS partnered with Ohio Means Jobs (OMJ) in order to finance the program, which again will be administered by Y.O.U. Y.O.U. will work with a consortium of providers, including Towards Employment, to not only match businesses to young adults who are looking for employment, but also to track their progress in the years to come. The program will be expanded through the state’s Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP), which is a combination of funding through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and funding from Ohio Youth Works and federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The county’s goal was to serve 1,000 youth aged 18-24 last year. With the increase in funding, the county hopes to connect 1,500 young adults ages 18-24 with jobs.

There is strong interest in the internship program. There are over 14,000 applications already for this year’s program.

Council members asked a variety of questions about the array of programs that would contribute to the $9.15 million contract that was being awarded to Y.O.U. Questions to Director Merriman, Carol Rivchun, president and CEO of Y.O.U., and Robin Smalley, director of programs for Towards Employment, included topics such as eligibility, marketing, coordination of the program, and setting employer expectations.

The resolution was approved and forwarded to full council under second reading suspension.