Parents receiving welfare in South Carolina will soon have someone on their side to help them get better jobs. The state Department of Social Services announced Wednesday it is partnering with a nonprofit group to provide job training and placement services for low-income adults. The idea is to get families with needy children off of welfare rolls.
In a press conference, DSS Director Lillian Koller announced the new partnership with Palmetto Development Group (PDG) — a nonprofit organization that works to fight poverty in South Carolina. Under the new “Work Readiness Assessment Process,” PDG would receive 65 new caseloads each month and would work to match the recipient’s job skills with possible jobs.
The state will pay for training, child care, and health care costs for the first two years if a person is hired. DSS Director Lillian Koller said those are major incentives for employers, “Where else are you going to get entry-level job applicants who have (these) paid for?”
More than 408,000 South Carolina households received food stamps in January.
Manufacturing and construction companies say they are open to the idea. “We’re here because we have the need,” said Shaw Construction’s workforce development manager Ralph Heath, “The idea of presenting to us fully-trained and qualified potential employees is a tremendous advantage to us.”
Shaw Construction is currently building a new nuclear reactor in Fairfield County.
Palmetto Development Group director James Solomon, Jr., says he hopes the new program will help those families who are in the bottom rung of poverty. “It’s a hands-on, down-and-dirty process,” Solomon said, “We meet them where they are and we just try to help them grow to the point where they are employable and marketable.”
The partnership will start out in Darlington, Florence, Lexington, and Richland counties. However, both Koller and Solomon said they hope it will eventually expand into other areas.
The public-private partnership was the idea of State Rep. Robert Williams (D-Darlington). Williams said it was probably the best way to help those on welfare rolls get a job.
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce already has several job training programs. However, Williams says this new DSS partnership would not cause any duplication. “You’ve got to understand the population this is working with,” he told South Carolina Radio Network, “They’re working with the lowest of the low. These individuals need all the services they can.”
The new partnership is part of Koller’s year-long goal to double the number of clients leaving the welfare rolls because of employment. Koller said the agency had helped more than 6,000 recipients leave the rolls since September. She hopes to increase that number to 10,000 by July. By comparison, the agency saw about 5,000 leave the rolls in the 10 months before she took over, she said.