The Employment Action Center (EAC) in Minneapolis is gearing up for tougher times when 300 welfare recipients get dropped from a key state-sponsored worker-training program next year.

The center, which conducts training and dislocated worker programs for the state, is one of several agencies that will lose all state funding in June for welfare-to-work client training. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the state cut $10 million from the Minnesota Family Investment Program Consolidated Funds, which go to counties and tribes for welfare to work programs. 

“The impact this will have on our client base is catastrophic,” said EAC director Carrie Scheffler . “These programs provide an opportunity for our jobseekers to get a foot in the door that is otherwise not open to them. In this economy this group is labeled the hardest to serve by the state. They don’t have the credentials, work history and skills to compete competitively in the job market.”

As a result, businesses are often unwilling to hire them without the help of a job skills coach and training that EAC provides.

Under its program, participants are placed in jobs with one of EAC’s 200 business partners. They work up to 25 hours a week at 7.25 an hour. The state pays the wages during the 12-week training program. Workers also receive training and coaching that hammer home the concepts of timeliness, consistency, professionalism and management expectations.

But no more. State budget watchers argue that the state’s budget crisis means Minnesota can no longer afford such services. EAC’s program alone costs the state about $970,000 a year for just 300 clients, mostly in the form of wage subsidies.

Hennepin and Ramsey Counties have three agencies that run similar programs for the poor. Dakota County also has one agency. The list goes on and on, “so across the state everybody is being cut. The entire program is being eliminated,” said Julie Kizlik, EAC welfare to work director.

She added that her program helped 3,000 clients transition into work since 1999.

Going forward, agencies will ask business partners to grant clients unpaid internships or hire them outright so that they can get work experience needed to get full-time and well paying jobs.

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