DEL NORTE—During the Rio Grande County Commissioners meeting held last Wednesday Aug. 30, commissioners listened to a written proposal read by County Administrator Roni Wisdom that was provided by Rio Grande Department of Social Services Director Jody Kern in regards to a sewing program that was begun several years ago in the county that was never able to take hold. In the report provided by Kern, it stated that though the program was unsuccessful in Rio Grande County, she feels that by helping another county get started, it might be helpful starting their own eventually.
The program initially began as a way to offer entry-level workforce skills to people who needed them. The program was geared towards offering sewing lessons to people with hopes to begin a sewing cooperative in Del Norte. The program was the result of ideas discussed in a San Luis Valley Community Action Agency meeting to get people the skills they needed to reenter the workforce and would fulfill the required amount of work hours needed for the Employment First program.
The social services program, Employment First, would have been what helped fund the sewing program through funds provided by TANF. According to the description, “Employment First is a federally mandated program designed to ensure that all able-bodied food assistance participants are engaged in activities that will improve their employability. The program is administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services and currently operates in 45 Colorado counties.
All individuals who apply for food assistance in Colorado and who do not meet federal exemption criteria must participate in Employment First activities. These activities include: workfare, adult basic education, GED preparation, literacy, college, vocational training, vocational rehabilitation, job search classes and part-time work.
As a result of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Act of 1996, participants who are identified as “able-bodied adults without dependents” must complete 20 hours each week in order to receive more than three months of food assistance in a 36-month period.”
Commissioners at the time agreed to help purchase a number of sewing machines for the program, which were bought and never used and Kern requested in her report that commissioners consider selling the machines to Alamosa County to start a program there. In the report Kern explained that Alamosa County, with the help of the San Luis Valley Development Resource Group (SLVDRG), has the means to start the program and get it off the ground. Commissioners agreed that it would be better for Rio Grande County to sell the machines to Alamosa and offer support for the program instead of trying to fund it and get it started themselves.
At the end of the discussion, commissioners agreed to sell the machines to Alamosa County for the amount they paid for them with the hope that the program would be successful enough to come to the Del Norte area in the future. Commissioners passed a motion to sell the machines with the stipulation that they would continue to offer support in any way possible to SLVDRG and Alamosa County to see that the program is successful.