As much as $1,500 in emergency funding could be available to participants in the city’s upcoming workforce development program, up from the $500 that was previously pledged.

SA Ready to Work, which aims to put thousands of San Antonio residents into higher-paying jobs through training and education, will provide the money to participants to cover emergency expenses related to housing, utilities, day care, food, transportation, internet access, cell phone service plans, legal assistance and more.

Michael Ramsey, executive director of the city’s Workforce Development Office responsible for executing the program, brought up the new figure while briefing the council on the program’s budget forecast for fiscal year 2023. He said the number was raised after feedback from council members and community partners, and that elevated projections of sales tax revenue attached to the program allowed for the $6.2 million increase in emergency funding.

The increase would require an amendment to contracts the program has with the case management providers who work with participants. Those providers are Restore Education, Project Quest, Workforce Solutions Alamo, and Alamo Colleges District.

“We want to make sure our case management agencies have every resource available that’s possible to help people overcome the barriers they’re facing,” Ramsey said.

The increase was praised by several council members, including Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) and Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6), who said $1,500 could make a “huge difference.” Councilman Mario Bravo (D1) said he hoped to see the amount raised even more in the future, because he did not feel that $1,500 was enough.

The sales tax revenue funding has brought in more money for the program than expected. While the program budgeted for $39.5 million in sales tax revenue for fiscal year 2022, it will ultimately collect an estimated $45.5 million.

The program is expected to cost $229.4 million over the next five years, funded entirely by a one-eighth-cent sales tax. Voters approved a broad outline of the program and the sales tax in November 2020, with around 77% of voters approving.

Workforce development office staff also recommended using the surplus cash to boost the program’s funding on television and radio advertising in both English and Spanish. The proposal would add up to $400,000 to the program’s contract with Creative Noggin, tasked with raising word of the workforce program.

“Our marketing, outreach and grassroots efforts are going to be crucial to making sure we get people into the pipeline,” Ramsey said, who called awareness the program’s biggest bottleneck.

His office further recommended the council allow the program to bolster its services for participants seeking a high school equivalency credential by entering two new contracts with Restore Education and Alamo Colleges District.

Anticipated participant numbers for the program have dropped since February, when council approved contracts for the program. At that time, staffers said the program expected to attract nearly 40,000 applicants, train 36,000, and ultimately place around 28,000 in jobs.

On Wednesday, Ramsey’s presentation said nearly the same amount would apply, but only 28,000 would be trained and 15,600 placed in jobs.  

The city has received pledges to participate in the program from 177 local employers. Those employers include H-E-B, Frost Bank, Holt Cat, Navistar and Methodist Healthcare System.

City council is set to vote on the proposed contract amendments on May 19.

The program is set to officially launch May 16.

Alamo Colleges District, H-E-B, and the Methodist Healthcare System are financial supporters of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

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Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham covered business and technology for the San Antonio Report.