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ACC Commission addressed workforce development plan, requesting more details about proposed spending

During Wednesday’s agenda setting meeting, the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed how American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, dollars will be spent on a workforce development plan.

In 2022, the Athens-Clarke County Government allocated $4 million of ARPA funds to Business Development and Workforce Support. A task force was established in 2023 to come up with a strategic plan to control where the money will go. The main goal—to connect Athenians with high paying jobs. The Commission now has to decide if that strategic plan should be approved.

David Bradley is the President of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and spoke in support of the plan he helped develop.

“We have a rare opportunity to change lives, to change generational lives, through getting people employed in high wage, high benefit jobs,” he told the Mayor and Commission.

However, several Commissioners requested more specific details about how the money would be spent. Carol Myers of the 8th District was one of them.

“If there’s any kind of description of what those programs are going to be, why those programs? We have them for Early Education, the Clarke County Mentor Program and Books for Keeps. What was the rationale for putting those two in there versus other early education literacy programs? So a little bit more description in here so I can explain this better to myself and to constituents would be appreciated,” she said.

Ovita Thornton of the 9th District, who was ultimately supportive of the plan, criticized its language, worried that its goals were too vague.

“I see words more than one time that says ‘advocate.’ What does ‘advocate’ mean at the end of the day? I should count all the ‘advocates,’ because that is not something substantial to me. I’m very bothered when I see things like ‘advocate, advocate.’ I want to see ‘we’re going to do, we’re going to do,’ and I want to see those deadline and those outcomes. At the end of the day, when the money’s gone, everybody’s going to say we advocated, but we’re going to have nothing to show for it.”

On the other hand, Dexter Fisher of the 5th District was fully in support.

“I truly believe this will be a game changer for our community. We talk a lot about poverty in this community. The best way to get out of poverty is by getting the training and finding good paying jobs,” he said.

The Commission is expected to review the plan further later this summer.

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