Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved $4 million for a jobs program intended to help low-income residents financially impacted by government-ordered public health shutdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic, with funds available for training, temporary work assignments and assistance finding permanent placement.
“We are hoping to connect participants to employment situations,” Heidi Marshall, director of the county’s Department of Housing & Workforce Solutions, told the Board of Supervisors. “We also want to help them with acquiring skills and building resumes.”
Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Jeff Hewitt jointly proposed the “Pathways to Employment” program, which relies on the county’s Community Action Partnership for implementation.
“Pathways to Employment will target adults ages 18 and over … by providing job training designed to lift participants out of poverty toward self-sufficiency,” according to a statement posted to the board’s agenda.
“Participants will be provided employment opportunities where they will receive a living wage stipend and be provided job training and mentoring opportunities, helping them acquire sought-after job skills and experience necessary to succeed in today’s changing work environment.”
The specified goal of the program is to extend aid to residents on the lower rungs of the economic ladder who have been left unemployed or underemployed because of the shutdowns prompted by the health emergency.
Like the Riverside County Youth Community Corps program approved earlier this month, Pathways to Employment will offer slots to 100 residents in each supervisorial district, for a total of 500 positions.
The program will feature a split-tier system, with 300 individuals offered an opportunity for eight weeks of training and temporary placement, working with nonprofits or government agencies, while another 200 individuals will be offered a 12-week rotation.
The eight-week commitment will pay $5,120 per individual, and the 12-week commitment will pay $7,680. The base hourly rate in both instances will be $20.
Supervisor Chuck Washington expressed concern that people currently receiving unemployment benefits might jeopardize those benefits if they are accepted into the program. Marshall replied that it was possible, but officials will not know until they have processed individual applications.
“The idea behind the program is to target older individuals (not youths) affected by unemployment,” she said.
There was no specific description of the mentoring and job training opportunities that will be arranged by CAP. However, the new program will create job placement opportunities for county reserve and volunteer firefighters who are able to work in the public safety sphere, according to the supervisors.
“One goal of the fire service is reaching out to disadvantaged communities,” said Jeffries, a former reserve fireman. “We are the largest contract for Cal Fire in the state, but we cannot require Cal Fire to hire anyone from the county. This is our one and only opportunity to make sure local residents — our volunteer firefighting force is about 120 — have a foot in the door for a career they might not otherwise have through the normal Cal Fire process.”
On Aug. 4, the board created the Youth Community Corps, dedicating $2 million from a $431 million allotment to the county under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act to support the corps. Pathways to Employment would also rely on the CARES money.
The corps is providing temporary job opportunities and internships to 500 minors countywide.