- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The D.C. Department of Employment Services says its summer jobs program for young residents will likely come in more than $5 million under budget once final payroll figures are tabulated this month.

Council member Michael A. Brown highlighted the projected figure on Wednesday at the start of an oversight hearing on the annual Summer Youth Employment Program, noting the program had overrun its budget in prior years due to mismanagement.

DOES officials testified that a 19 percent attrition rate and a lower cost-per-participant accounted for a projected cost of $10.8 million for the program, instead of a budgeted $16.1 million.

DOES Director Lisa Mallory said the attrition rate was normal and the agency could not find a firm explanation for why earlier news reports said costs per participant were higher than usual.

The 2011 program employed 14,126 city residents ages 14 to 21 this summer at more than 1,100 work sites in the District.

About 12,000 youth were accepted to the program in its early stages, but Mayor Vincent C. Gray injected additional funding to open it up to 4,000 additional applicants on the wait list. Among them, 2,126 applicants were able to meet final requirements or were still available to participate when they were offered a position, DOES employees testified.

Ms. Mallory, who deemed the program a “tremendous success,” said 52 percent of the participants were from east of the Anacostia River.

She said there is room for improvement in the attrition rate, noting some participants appear to abandon their jobs after the first paycheck.

“They get their shoes and now they’re out,” she said.

Public witnesses at the hearing cast a positive light on the program but pressed officials to keep an eye on benchmarks and planning to ensure improvement.

Mr. Brown, at-large Independent, also commended officials’ response to reports of a pair of gropings of juveniles that threatened to mar the program at its outset.

Police charged a claims examiner at DOES for the first incident and a contractor, who is not employed by the city, for a separate incident at Anacostia Senior High School.

Ms. Mallory said the person employed at her agency had a criminal record, but it was not a sex-related charge.

The program held an additional training session with youth participants on how to report improper behavior, although safety training is a part of orientation.