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First meeting of "work-a-day, earn-a-pay" task force held in Wilmington

Anne Hoffman/Delaware Public Media

The eight-member “Work-a-Day, Earn-a-Pay” Task Force held its first meeting Monday in Wilmington.

 Under the proposed employment program, low skill workers could be paid between $10.25 and $15 per hour for “public works” projects.State Senator Robert Marshall (D-West Wilmington) says the idea for the program came from an observation - he noticed that many young adults in Wilmington were “hanging around with nothing to do."


We are looking to create an opportunity here to reach out to those young adults, middle aged adults, who are hanging out with nothing to do. So they can have an opportunity to be employed and earn a paycheck," said Marshall.


He says similar conditions in nearby Baltimore likely helped lead to riots there this past spring.


So, borrowing a page from FDR’s Works Projects Administration, a New Deal initiative that helped the US get out of the Great Depression, Marshall proposed a program called “Work-a-day, Earn-a-pay.” He wasn’t able to persuade the General Assembly to fund the program back in June, so he’s using the task force it did sign off on help make the case.

The ultimate goal is a $10 million program, but for now, Marshall is focusing on a pilot project. That would mean $2 million for salaries, management and private sector grants.

Some Wilmington residents told the task force Monday they are skeptical. One man said he doesn’t trust politicians to address issues like poverty and unemployment. Another said he thought the barriers to entry for joining the program would be too high.  But Senator Marshall says overall he feels the community engagement at the meeting was positive.

"I think the response here today is overwhelming. The public interest, public support for the effort. And we just need to move forward and be motivated and gain from the understanding of the many who are from Wilmington who live in their neighborhood with this type of need," he said.

Porsha Wiggins, a Wilmington resident with seven children and a grandchild agrees.

"Because for a person like me, I need this opportunity. I have a lot of people that I have to take care of," she said.

She added, “the unspoken people in our city need this.”


Marshall says he expects to send the task force's report to the Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) in December with hopes of launching the project launch in May 2016.  

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