DC sheds ‘high-risk’ Labor Department designation

WASHINGTON — Five years ago, D.C. was put on a Labor Department list of “high-risk” partners in job training and employment programs. In 2015, the District was the only city left on that list. But no more.

“You don’t want to be on it,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser said of the high-risk list, while announcing the change on Friday.

The label came about for many reasons, including inability to pay job counselors in a timely manner. It also meant extra federal oversight of $24 million a year D.C. receives in federal employment and training grants.

Deputy Mayor Courtney Snowden, who oversees the Department of Employment Services, recalled a 2015 meeting in Philadelphia with Labor Department officials.

“They had notebooks from one end of the table to the other with things that D.C. had not gotten right. And I said on behalf of our mayor, we would get that right. And we did that,” she said.

The change in status is very timely for Bowser, who’s expected to run for re-election next year. She used an event honoring graduates of the city’s LEAP program, which sets up ‘earn and learn’ programs for D.C. residents, to announce the status change — and to share some good economic numbers.

“To be specific, 22,300 more D.C. residents are working since January 2015, when I took office,” said Bowser.

In that same time, she said, the District’s unemployment rate has dropped by 1.1 percent (to 6.4 percent) — with much of that number driven by an increase in jobs in Wards 7 and 8.

“This is a good time in Washington, D.C.,” she added.

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