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State senators examine possible legal violations by Interfaith training program

kashif_handy.jpg
Sarah Mueller
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Kashif Handy talks about his experience with HomeWorks program run by Interfaith Community Housing. Pictured on the right is Sens. Anthony Delcollo, Nicole Poore and Robert Marshall.

Delaware lawmakers examined the practices of a workforce training program accused of breaking labor laws. The program received about 167,000 in taxpayer funding for the current fiscal year.

Delawareans who enrolled in the HomeWorks program run by Interfaith Community Housing say they were used as free labor. Interfaith created the program for ex-offenders to gain skills in the construction industry.

The 16-week course was supposed be a mix of classroom and on-the-job training. But former trainee Kashif Handy says some weeks he worked at a job site all five days, but was only paid for two days.

“Yeah, I feel like it was a hustle," he said. "It was definitely a hustle what they were trying to do. What they were doing not trying. And it just sucks that I had to be one of the people who got exploited just in the midst of it.”

Handy also said trainees also weren’t given safety equipment and were left unsupervised at work sites.

Eric Mundy took the 16-week course in Fall 2016. He said the trainer left him to supervise a dozen of his classmates at construction sites because he had prior building experience.

“I’m not a teacher, you know," he said. "Yes, he would leave for hours. Sometimes he’d leave all day. He might come back just to pick people up, drop us off or something like that. That’s it.”

Labor union representatives said these situations are common in Delaware. They said the Department of Labor needs more investigators and vehicles to do oversight.

State Labor Secretary Cerron Cade said his department needs to tighten oversight of workforce development programs and make sure workers know their rights. DOL is doing a investigation of the HomeWorks program.

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