- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

The Department of Labor yesterday became the first Cabinet agency to enact President Bush's faith-based initiative when it announced creation of a grant program designed to help ministry groups provide job training and counseling for the needy.
The $14.9 million in grants will cover "small pilot programs," advisory groups for interested ministries, and state-level links to "one-stop career centers," which used to be called unemployment offices.
"This is really an exciting day for the department," Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said at a news conference.
She spoke of America's "charitable instinct" and the "citizen saint" and said, "It is our role in government to enourage that good work."
The announcement begins a one-year effort focused on helping small groups apply for funds, set up projects or connect with job referral and training systems already in place.
"Our faith-based office allows us to take a close look at our programs and policies," Mrs. Chao said.
By executive order in January 2001, Mr. Bush set up faith-based divisions in five Cabinet agencies. It required them to audit how faith-based groups were treated when applying to use federal welfare money.
A White House report, released in August and based on agencies reviews, said smaller organizations either did not get a fair share of grants, were discriminated against, or felt intimidated by government bureaucracy.
Mrs. Chao's agency is first to roll out a response to the report, and similar initiatives are expected from the departments of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Education and Health and Human Services.
"We want to bring faith-based organizations into full partnerships with the one-stop career centers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover-DeRocco, who heads employment and training policy.
She said churches and ministries can be a "bridge" to employment centers for the unemployed or those who need training.
An urban church, for example, can help direct those "who otherwise would not walk into a government facility," she said.
The charitable-choice clause in the 1996 welfare-reform law allowed faith-based groups to bid for federal social spending without compromising their religious governance or identity.
The 1996 law covered one funding area of the Labor Department, and for three years it has issued grants to some faith-based projects.
The new grants hope to fine-tune and expand the initiative, the Labor Department officials said.
This includes a funding stream that will give $25,000 to small pilot projects in which a faith-based group will set up job-related training, such as skills in computers, time management or job hunting.
"We are experimenting with small grants," said Brent Orrell, director of Labor's faith-based office.
A third kind of grant, which amounts to $5 million in total spending, will seek "regional intermediaries" who will advise and train faith-based groups how to set up qualifying programs and apply for future grants.
The Rev. Herb Lusk, a Baptist pastor from Philadelphia who backed candidate George W. Bush's faith-based initiative, joined the press conference yesterday. His urban church offers computer training.
"This is something I've been waiting on for a long time," he said, lauding the president for "sticking to his guns" on this domestic policy.

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