Some Lake County officials oppose job grant

Some officials say it's too much money for one employee

Americans frequently say the government should help get people back to work, but Lake County Board members are divided about whether to give a suburban company a federal grant to train and employ a Waukegan man.

The firm is in Glenview, and one commissioner said she opposes giving the money to a Cook County company. Others think the $19,155 grant is too large for one worker.

The county's workforce development department has been awarded the grant specifically to fund the man's on-the-job training at a Glenview company called Advanced Computer Training.

As part of the proposed agreement, the firm would agree to hire the man after the training period.

It's a new program, and the company and the man are the first people set to benefit from it, said Terri Berryman, director of the workforce department.

All of the money for the project would come from federal coffers, said county board member Aaron Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican who oversees the committee that deals with such grants.

But some county board members have concerns about the plan, and at least one plans to vote against it when the board decides the matter this week.

That commissioner, Highland Park Democrat Anne Flanigan Bassi, doesn't want to give the money to a company in neighboring Cook County.

“We've got the training dollars. There have to be (interested) Lake County employers,” Bassi said Friday during a committee-of-the-whole discussion in Libertyville.

County board member Ann Maine, a Lincolnshire Republican, also voiced concerns about the plan, particularly the size of the grant.

“It is a lot,” Maine said.

Job-training grants available through a different county program typically range from $3,000 to $50,000 and cover between four and 20 workers at a single company, Berryman said.

The man, who has not been identified publicly, has been unemployed for two years, officials said Friday. No other information was available about him.

Lawlor and others said they support the grant because it will get a Lake County resident back to work.

“I don't have an issue with it being a Glenview company,” Lawlor said after the meeting. “The resident is a Waukegan resident, and he's going to spend his paycheck in Waukegan.”

The amount of the grant didn't bother Lawlor, either.

“I think putting people back to work right now is important,” Lawlor said. “The (total) seems like a lot of money, but the return on our investment … is huge.”

Grayslake Democrat Melinda Bush supports the plan, too.

“This guy's been out of work for two years, and that's a huge cost to all of us,” Bush said.

The grant program typically covers 90 percent of the wages paid to previously unemployed workers during training. The companies receiving the grant cover the remaining 10 percent.

In this case, that's about $2,128, according to county documents.

In an interview, Berryman said her office has had access to the grant money for about six months. But her staff has struggled to find local employers who wanted to participate.

Bassi suggested administrators include information about the grant program in an upcoming newsletter as a way to encourage Lake County businesses to apply for the funds.

The county board is expected to vote on the matter during its next meeting, set for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Waukegan.