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Mayor Barrett Proposes Milwaukee Hire Ex-Offenders to Fill Potholes

LaToya Dennis

Potholes are difficult to miss in Milwaukee because of the harsh winter and city leaders have a plan for bringing more workers aboard to patch. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants to hire a couple dozen people to help fill the holes, while also putting specific groups of people to work.

If passed by Milwaukee's Common Council, the city would partner with United Migrant Opportunity Services, or UMOS, to hire 25 more people to fill the potholes over the next six months. Mayor Barrett says the goal is obviously better streets, but he says it’s also about a lot more.

“We also know that this is a time in our community where there are a lot of people who are in need of work, who are looking for work. Particularly people who are trying to get their life back in order,” Barrett says.

Barrett says the city hopes to target people between the ages of 16 and 24 who owe child support, is an ex-offender or is someone who simply cannot find work. Tina Koehn is Vice President of UMOS. She says there’s very little risk involved for employers.

“The program offers a wage subsidy of minimum wage for up to six months. The funding comes from the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families,” Koehn says.

While the program would normally pay $7.25 an hour, the city plans to supplement the wage to bringing the hourly pay up to $9.51. That’s the city’s living wage. She says there’s no doubt job seekers will benefit.

“We provide work support, job and career coaching, immediate income, and help finding unsubsidized employment. Our experience has told us that the strongest variable in connecting someone to a job is having a work history. And Transform Milwaukee Jobs does that and  much more,” Koehn says.

It’s only expected to take around one week to train workers, with the goal of having them out working by May 5th.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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