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Syracuse Common Councilors Approve Job Training/Placement Program Funds, Delay Additional Rent Relief

Councilors listen to Commissioner of Assessment Dave Clifford back in June.
Scott Willis
WAER file photo
Councilors listen to Commissioner of Assessment Dave Clifford back in June.

The City of Syracuse is aiming to recruit and train about 140 unemployed and underemployed city residents for positions that employers are looking to fill. Common Councilors approved the more than 800-thousand dollars in federal pandemic relief funding as part of an agreement with Centerstate CEO. Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens says this approach serves as a bridge between workers and industry.

"We know the demand is there because the employers have told us that there is a demand. Instead of making assumptions about the industry, the employers have said in this area and that area, we really could use more labor."

Those areas include certification or apprenticeship programs for electrical/mechanical maintenance, heating/ventilation and cooling systems, commercial truck drivers, advanced manufacturing, and software development. Owens says most workforce development programs send prospective candidates into the world hoping for the best.

"I've always talked about the fact that I don't want to see people with folders of certificates of completed trainings without a job at the end."

She says they’re aiming to be intentionally interactive with employers with help from Centerstate CEO. The training program will also include transportation and stipends for participants. They have a placement goal of 80 percent.


In other business, common councilors Monday held off on approving the allocation of $1 million for another round of federal rent relief funding to see if the county is willing to match it.   

Onondaga County legislators agreed last week to administer the expanded program on behalf of the city to reach households making between 80 and 100 percent of area median income who’ve been impacted by the pandemic. Councilor Latoya Allen says these residents may be working, but are still struggling.

"They're the ones who typically don't qualify for services. So, people in that income range can't get food stamps or Medicaid and things of that sort. Those are the ones who are really stretched thin."

She says most people in that bracket spend a disproportionate amount of income on rent, leaving them very little for food, utilities, and car payments. Allen and other councilors would like the county to chip in a million dollars of its own federal pandemic relief funds in order to help more residents…even those making above area median income. City Commissioner of Neighborhood and business development Michael Collins agrees the need is there, but so far hasn’t received any indication the county is willing to pitch in. Meanwhile, he says the city is continuing to process payments already in the pipeline, and most landlords are doing their part to qualify.

"Out of about 1,000 payments so far, there's only about 35 that have not been able to go out because the landlord won't complete the process on either fixing code violations or rental registry, that kind of thing. We go through that on our own end by enforcing compliance."

In order to be eligible for the relief funds, both tenants and landlords have to apply together. Collins says while there are a few challenges, the overwhelming majority of those who qualify have completed the process.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at