JCCEO increasing financial accountability

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 5:14 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The financially troubled Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) took steps Monday the board of directors hope will be steps to bring their financial house in order.

The agency provides assistance for low income households in the county. A big part of the JCCEO included Head Start programs, but the agency has given that up to a private company to run.

The other federal programs are in trouble if the JCCEO doesn’t get a $3 million bailout from Jefferson County and Birmingham.

A letter dated last week from Jefferson County Manager Cal Markert was sent to the JCCEO about its financial request. Markert said the agency is vital to many residents, but an atrocious injustice has been done to them with financial mismanagement.

The county asked the board to take a number of steps to increase accountability. Board Chairman Gary Richardson said they have.

“We tighten up the board. We whittle down the board from 18 to 9. We still have a cross section of members from public and private,” Richardson said.

The board also voted for all personal service contracts to be vetted before it’s sent to the board for approval. Richardson said it’s been a problem.

“So these contracts there were let out without board approval, without knowledge of the board - will never happen again,” Richardson said.

On Monday, emails will be going out to about 58 regular JCCEO employees to inform them that if the agency doesn’t get funding from Jefferson County and Birmingham by Friday, they will be laid off.

“What we are going to tell them it’s a layoff pending funding. So, it’s going to be a layoff, but if the layoff doesn’t happen it’s going to be a termination,” Richardson said.

The board also hired a temporary CFO to report to them on the agency’s financial condition, not just the executive director.

Those who are low income and depend on the JCCEO for financial assistance should hang on for little while longer.

This week, Head Start programs have been suspended because a private agency took control of the grant funds after allegations of misuse. CDI hoped to hire some former employees with JCCEO Head Start employees if they qualify.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is shut down because of funding problems. Utility assistance programs will resume, eventually. Richardson said even if they don’t get the assistance, they will resume the program because few other agencies are established to run this program on a mass scale like the JCCEO.

“JCCEO is the only community action agency in Jefferson County. We are the only agency to provide those services. For some to say let it fold and let it go away, that is not an easy thing to say because the JCCEO is the only community agency that can manage CSBG money,” Richardson said.

On Tuesday, Richardson and others will be talking with ADECA out of Montgomery. That is the state agency they receive state and federal grants from. Richardson is hoping for concessions to ease some of their financial burden.

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