The leaders of Richmond’s anti-poverty effort say they plan to use a $1.9 million grant from the state announced Thursday to place more struggling residents in training programs.
As an example, Valaryee Mitchell, the city’s workforce administrator, cited a shortage of sterilization technicians in local hospitals. The position is responsible for cleaning surgical instruments and pays well – more than $17 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“So now we’ll have the funding to pay for training for city residents living in poverty to get this training and get jobs that are in very high demand,” Mitchell said. “We have tended to shy away from training that costs more money because of our limited funding, but this will give us an opportunity.”
The grant nearly doubles the Office of Community Wealth Building’s $2.1 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Of that, $1.4 million is set aside for workforce development programs, up from $772,000 in the current fiscal year.
The decision to raise the department’s budget was briefly contentious, with the City Council considering pulling the excess funds, prompting an outpouring of support for the department and its efforts from residents who said they had benefited from the program.
The additional funding came by way of the state department of social services and is being paid for through a budget provision passed by the General Assembly in February that set aside $7.5 million in funding for cities with high poverty rates.
Mitchell and the department’s director, Reggie Gordon, could not immediately provide statistics regarding how many people will receive training as a result of the additional funding.
In addition to singling out the sterilization technician training, they said they anticipated using the funds to put residents into commercial driver’s license training programs, which can take several weeks and cost upwards of $3,500. They said commercial driving jobs often represent good opportunities for people with felony records who have trouble obtaining employment at a living wage in other fields.
“We are happy about the fact that this matches the needs we have been seeing from the people who walk in the door,” Gordon said. “Making sure that they have the training to be marketable and attractive to industries that can lead to sustainable, living-wage employment.”
Mayor Levar Stoney said the grant represents a recognition of the grant “recognizes the hard work and dedication of our city’s Office of Community Wealth Building.”