Florida Keys

Florida jobs program is out of a job in the Keys as leaders cut ties to start their own

CareerSource Florida is a federally funded program tasked with job-training for young adults and the unemployed.

But Florida Keys officials say the nonprofit corporation has neglected its duties in Monroe County for decades, and withheld millions of dollars in services that were intended to go to jobs training and apprenticeship programs in the island chain. Now, they want to know what’s happened to that money.

“This is a federally funded workforce development board that receives millions and millions of dollars every year — $30 to $90 million per year that is allocated” to Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, said Monroe County Commissioner Michelle Coldiron. “Monroe County is supposed to receive 6.7 percent of those funds annually, and we are of the opinion we are not receiving these funds.”

Michelle Coldiron.jpg
Michelle Coldiron

The five-member Monroe County Commission Wednesday voted unanimously to cut ties with CareerSource and to form its own workforce training program through the College of the Florida Keys.

“Basically, what this would do is allow our college and Monroe County to control the millions of dollars that are going to come through, so that it goes straight through the college and not CareerSource,” Coldiron said during a meeting in Key Largo Thursday.

Commissioners also voted to appoint Coldiron on the three-member board that oversees CareerSource in the Keys, replacing a member who resigned over what she feared could be illegal activity at the organization, said Jonathan Gueverra, president of the College of Florida Keys.

“She indicated that she did want to go to prison any time soon,” Gueverra said.

Coldiron said the agreement between the county and CareerSource expires in 2020, “so that gives us about 11 months to work on a redisign.”

CareerSource’s budget comes from the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services. It flows to the organization through the state Department of Economic Opportunity, according to the Miami-Dade County Office of Inspector General, which audited the organization in June 2018.

That audit found “discrepancies” with job placements reported by providers contracted with CareerSource that resulted “disallowed costs,” meaning those contractors got paid by CareerSource when they should not have.

The Monroe County Clerk of the Court recently launched its own audit of CareerSource’s Keys operations. County Clerk Kevin Madock said Friday that he could not comment on the audit since it was “in its early phase.”

Roderick Beasley, executive director for CareerSource in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, did not return a phone call for comment.

Although the county is supposed to receive the 6.7 percent of CareerSource’s annual allocation for the Dade/Monroe region, Monroe officials don’t factor it in when they put together the annual budget, said Tina Boan, senior budget and finance director for the county.

Two sources close to the program say that over the two decades of Monroe County’s involvement with CareerSource, it should have received more than $20 million in services. The actual amount is less than $1 million, these sources say.

Gueverra explained that one way the county seems to be missing out on programs CareerSource is supposed to provide is by exhausting the process.

He said the college will come up with a training program and submit it to CareerSource. When CareerSource approves the funding for the program, the college usually begins preparing the necessary documentation in August.

CareerSource staff usually takes so long doing what it needs to do on its end, the fiscal year is almost over before the program can be implemented, he said.

“And, because funding has to be spent in the fiscal year, we can’t spend it, so we are not able to continue with the program,” Gueverra said. “Every one of us has have to deal with that and has lost the opportunity to serve our local youth and unemployed individuals.”