A gathering of health care and job training officials on May 8 began as a critique of national politics and ended as a kind of moral crusade.
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey and the Westchester County Association convened the executives to update them on the status of Jobs Waiting, just past the halfway point of a four-year, $9.8 million federal grant.
But first, there was the matter of current events.
Congress’ proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act could cost New York $4 billion in Medicaid reimbursements, noted William M. Mooney Jr., WCA president, and would devastate health care infrastructure and jobs.
The real culprits, he said, are five large health insurance companies that pay their executives enormous bonuses and that have racked up 300 percent returns under the ACA versus 135 percent for the broad S&P index.
“There is something immoral,” he said. “They’re not about health care.”
Lowey, a Democrat who represents parts of Westchester and Rockland counties, was dismissive of the American Health Care Act passed by House Republicans on May 5.
“People voted for the bill knowing they hadn’t read it,” she said, “knowing it’s a lousy bill and knowing it’s not going anywhere.”
As to President Trump, “He doesn’t know a thing about health care. Who knows, he may need health care if he’s up to 3 a.m. tweeting every day.”
Once they cleared their throats, the group got down to the business of discussing ways to make the seven-county jobs program better.
Jobs Waiting was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2014 and is run by WCA and the Westchester-Putnam Local Workforce Investment Board. The goal is to recruit 425 people who have been out of work for at least six months and find jobs for 325.
Lowey framed the issue thus: Local health care providers have jobs but can’t find enough qualified candidates. Yet, there are still lots of unemployed people looking for work. What needs to be done?
The answer, in short, is retraining long-term unemployed workers and matching them to jobs.
Jobs Waiting recruits attend boot camp for four to six weeks and get 100 hours of assessments and coaching. They learn how to write better resumes, network, interview for jobs, hone rusty skills and learn new ones.
“The return on investment is profound,” said Sharon Small, an instructor at eight boot camps.
Recruits often start out begrudgingly, she said, but the training puts them on a level playing field in the job market. It’s an opportunity for demoralized unemployed people to recommit to a profession, go to work with peers and realize they matter.
“You lose your self-esteem,” when you’re out of work for a long time, graduate Joseph Gressel said. “Having a chance is the key component.”
“You realize you are not alone,” said Toya Will, another graduate.
Small said recruits emerge from boot camp “crystal clear on the value they have to offer prospective employers.”
So far, 378 people have enrolled in the program, 160 have been hired and 30 are in work tryouts, according to project manager Jason Chapin.
That’s a 42 percent success rate with the possibility of hitting 50 percent. Chapin and Mooney said the success rate will increase significantly as more industry partners join the program and graduates use their new skills to land the jobs.
The meeting was really an elaborate sales pitch to the second part of the jobs equation.
Jobs Waiting is cultivating partners.
Invitees represented names such as Burke Rehabilitation, ENT and Allergy Associates, Montefiore, New York Presbyterian, Phelps, St. John’s Riverside, Westchester Medical Center and Westmed.
The program offers them incentives to hire boot camp graduates. It pays full wages of graduates who are given a six-week tryout. It pays companies for on-the-job training for specific job openings, at 50 percent to 90 percent of the wages, for up to six months.
But the ultimate incentive is not money.
“There’s so much more than statistics,” Mooney said. “It’s peoples’ lives.”
“Seeing another human being helped. What better thing than to give another person hope?”