Walker Unveils $4.5 Million Economic, Workforce Development Plan for Milwaukee

Walker joins Barrett, Abele in announcing comprehensive plan following violent unrest

MacIver News Service | Friday, August 26

[Madison, Wis…] Governor Scott Walker joined Milwaukee leaders on Friday in rolling out a comprehensive new strategy for improving some of the city’s most economically depressed areas and helping job seekers find employment.

The new initiative, which comes on the heels of violent unrest in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, is a collaborative effort between the state and local governments and includes an additional $4.5 million in new state spending.

“Today’s announcement sends a message to the people of Milwaukee that we are here to help anyone who wants a job, find a job,” Walker said in a statement. “At the state, we are going to utilize new methods to market job and health services for people who need them, and we are also going to make a significant investment in worker training.”

Under the plan, six state agencies will be engaged in efforts to improve economically troubled regions in Milwaukee, connect job seekers with jobs, and rebuild blighted areas. The plan is designed to implement a number of new initiatives immediately.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett echoed Walker’s emphasis on employment, adding that the new initiative will also address blight in the city.

“With a focus on Sherman Park and adjoining areas, I want to initiate an effort that will address both the lack of job opportunities and the condition of neighborhood housing stock in a meaningful way,” Barrett said.

A major portion of the effort involves reinforcing programs for job seekers and making the programs more easily accessible.

The state’s Department of Children and Families will provide $1.5 million in additional TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds for employment programs in Milwaukee like the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program and its partner agencies.

The state Department of Workforce Development will also allocate $1 million in “Fast Forward” funding to employer-based job training programs. DWD has also prepared a mobile employment program to help job seekers with career counseling at various mobile locations in a partnership with Employ Milwaukee and others.

In addition, the Department of Health Services will coordinate with local FoodShare Employment Training (FSET) staff at the mobile jobs sites to connect FoodShare recipients with FSET, which is designed to provide training and job opportunities that help move FoodShare recipients into the workforce and off government assistance.

FSET has helped almost 12,000 people find jobs since April 2015, according to DHS data from March of this year.

The plan also seeks to address deteriorating neighborhoods in the City of Milwaukee.

The state will contribute $2 million toward the demolition and rehabilitation of foreclosed and deteriorated properties in the City of Milwaukee, which will provide matching funds. The plan resembles a similar blight reduction plan in 2013 that demolished 205 properties.

In addition, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is working with the city and others to assist businesses affected by the violent unrest that tore through the Sherman Park neighborhood August 13-14.

“While it’s incredibly upsetting that it took another tragedy to create a true call to action throughout our community, I’m encouraged by the efforts of state and local leaders,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

The plan highlights an existing network of grants and resources available through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to help people find affordable housing and assist in redeveloping existing housing. WHEDA will also provide $380,000 in grants geared toward fostering entrepreneurship in Milwaukee.

Additionally, DHS will coordinate with the city and county to provide additional assistance to individuals struggling with substance abuse, including alcohol and heroin addiction. DHS will work with the county to identify and assist those with mental health problems and to promote resources available through the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program.

While the plan to improve the conditions in challenged areas of Milwaukee is a comprehensive approach, Walker focused on the importance of transitioning people from unemployment and government dependence into the workforce.

“This is all about helping people move from government dependence to true independence through the dignity that comes from work,” Walker said.