America Works Receives New Department of Labor Grant to Aid Homeless Veterans

July 1, 2009

Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lee Bowes and Founder Peter Cove of America WorksDid you know there are more than one-quarter of a million U.S. military veterans living in New York City?

That’s right. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) estimates that there are about 240,000 U.S. veterans in the five boroughs of NYC.

And while MOVA doesn’t track how many of those men and women are homeless or living in shelters, anecdotal evidence leads us to believe it’s a significant number.

That’s why we’re pleased to announce that one of our affiliated companies has received a grant under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) to provide NYC’s homeless veterans with job training and placement.

The purpose of HVRP is to reintegrate homeless veterans into the workforce while addressing the complex problems they face. Grants were made to a variety of state and local organizations nationwide. HVRP was initially authorized in July 1987, and was re-authorized under the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act of 2001. For more details about the program, please click here: http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/fact/Homeless_veterans_fs04.htm

This will actually be the second program that America Works is going to offer local veterans. Since January 2009, we’ve operated a pilot program specifically for U.S. veterans who receive food stamps. We operate under contract with funding from MOVA and the NYC Human Resources Administration.

In case you’re not familiar with our mission, let us explain. America Works of New York, Inc. is a Manhattan-based company with a conscience. Founded 25 years ago by social entrepreneur Peter Cove, it provides intensive, personalized employment services to hard-to-place populations including the homeless, criminal offenders, and welfare and food stamp recipients. Our chief executive officer is Dr. Lee Bowes.

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Honor America’s Newest Veterans With Jobs

June 15, 2009

When armed conflicts began in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, America promised that those serving in battle would not be neglected as were those who served in Vietnam two generations ago. Sadly, limited social services and shoddy treatment rule as thousands of returning members of the military are discarded after leaving active duty. Even after the parades of Memorial Day fade away, America should remember how much it owes to its service members and reward them for their selflessness by helping them secure jobs in addition to other benefits.

While it may appear counter-intuitive to propose a job creation program for veterans while the economy is in a deep recession, the federal stimulus package offers a solution. Governors may set aside a portion of the discretionary funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to fund a job placement program for specialized populations including disabled veterans and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly known as welfare, under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

About 7.1 million people have served in the Gulf War since 2001, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, of which 52% are with the Reserve or National Guard and 48% are on active duty. In total, there are about 23.8 million living U.S. veterans who served during both war and peacetime.

Unfortunately, the number of veterans moving into the ranks of the unemployed is growing. There were 28,435 newly discharged veterans claiming unemployment insurance benefits for the week ending May 16, an increase of 181% over the prior year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While there has been no national study of employment trends among newly returning veterans, a remarkable study conducted by Central Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs revealed that employers may be reluctant to hire veterans because of misconceptions about their disabilities.

One way to honor our veterans is to provide them with jobs in addition to other benefits. In fact, employment might well be the best and most effective means of aiding people as they re-enter the civilian workforce.

Since January 2009, America Works has operated a unique job placement program for veterans receiving food stamps with funding from the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Veterans Affairs and the New York City Human Resources Administration. In addition to aiding veterans, this program simultaneously reduces their reliance on New York’s overburdened social services. 

America Works prepares them for the job market (providing them with targeted training as well as a resume, appropriate clothing, and car fare), then sends them out on appropriately selected job interviews. This program is open to newly returning vets as well as those who served at any other time in the past. 

Based on our experience with Vietnam veterans, we know that many people who leave active duty disappear from the public’s view only to end up unemployed and homeless. Is not one measure of a country’s worth its treatment of those who have served, suffered, and survived their ordeals?

We should live by the words of Pres. John F. Kennedy, who said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”


Before unraveling welfare reform, appreciate why it worked

February 25, 2009

Our economic tsunami could drown the historic reforms made in welfare over the past 13 years.

We must not let that happen.

The shovel-ready arguments voiced by many in the left wing of the Democratic Party go like this: We are in a recession, people are hurting, and jobs are not there for welfare recipients – so loosening strings on government entitlements is the answer. A New York Times editorial of Feb. 9 says “welfare programs should be expanding” and bemoans the fact that “the number of people receiving cash assistance is at or near a four-decade low.”

Indeed, those intent on driving the welfare rolls back up scored a big victory in President Obama‘s stimulus bill, which contains two provisions that have the potential to discourage work. First, it gives states that increase their caseloads more money, which creates an incentive to let more people onto the dole. Second, it relieves states of the “work activity” obligations for food stamps they otherwise would incur because of rising caseloads. Since New York City has an aggressive workfare program, it is turning down some of that food stamp cash – and instead keeping in place stricter rules that require able-bodied welfare recipients to work to continue to receive the benefit.

Advocates are crying foul. They insist government help is needed now, and city government’s work requirements are onerous and unfair.

This calls for a quick history lesson. Though almost all agree that welfare reform, which resulted in the greatest reduction in welfare dependency in the nation’s history, was a major success, few seem to recall why it worked. We’d better remember if we’re going to stop thousands of families from slipping into dependency during the current crisis.

First, contrary to the assumptions of so many – and the doom-and-gloom predictions that welfare recipients would wind up unemployed and sleeping on the streets en masse – we have consistently discovered that jobs, in fact, are available for people trying to get off public assistance. In any economy, even this one, there is churn in the labor market. People resign, are fired or die. When that happens, jobs open up.

According to the city’s Human Resources Administration, the city’s welfare program has not seen a falling off in its ability to place welfare recipients into employment – not even during the national recession that started more than a year ago.

In fact, last year, a little over 85,000 New Yorkers reached the point of losing their cash grant due to time limits imposed by federal law. In that year, the HRA, responsible for welfare in the city, placed over 80,000 people – up slightly from 2007.

Second, welfare reform worked and still works today because most people on welfare want to work, can work – and are welcomed by the private sector as good employees. Twelve years of dramatically reduced caseloads put the lie to the myth that they prefer a government benefit to a low wage, can’t work due to infirmity or lack of education or are excluded from jobs by the private sector’s prejudice.

Third, work is therapy and it socializes. There are huge benefits that accrue to families and society when previously dependent people hold down a job. Children fare better in school and are less prone to social deviance. Mental health of the wage earner improves, and, frequently, family reunification occurs.

Whatever anti-poverty advocates say, no matter how intently they want to turn back the clock on reform, our economy can and must keep moving low-income people from dependency to work. We cannot risk a return to the “come and get it” policies once promoted most famously here in New York City.

Yes, there will always be those deserving and helpless who require government assistance. The states have those resources through block grants from the federal government.

But it would be a tragedy to use the new economic downturn to return to old, failed policies that disastrously marginalized so many.

Cove is the founder of America Works, a company that places hard-to-place people into work.