More teens lose out on federal stimulus jobs

The AJC previously reported 41 teens from a Hapeville charter school showed up for work Tuesday and learned their money had not come through.

Now, a church in Atlanta's West End that was promised $8.50 an hour jobs for eight youths has learned that it is out of luck, too.

"I'm just really devastated," said Charlotte McKenzie, a minister who is offering free summer camps to 25 children aged 13 and under whose parents are busy at work.

She is volunteering her time, but needs the help of eight youth ministers who were promised jobs as mentors at the camp, which is run out of Lindsay Street Baptist Church.

The parents of the 25 younger children cannot afford paid camp, McKenzie said, and they desperately need the service. One, who has five children attending, just gave birth.

"They would have absolutely nowhere to go because I can't run the program by myself," McKenzie said. "Absolutely no way."

She said the mentors were planning to use their pay to buy school clothes. She said Thursday that she had not broken the news to them yet, and that she didn't have the heart to ask them to work for free.

"We've got to figure out something to get them paid," she said.

McKenzie is not alone. Officials at the new Hapeville Charter Career Academy were planning to use the services of 41 students to move furniture, books and equipment into new buildings, the AJC reported Wednesday.

The students worked several hours Tuesday, until they learned that their money had not come through.

A non-profit group called the McClendon Project introduced the government jobs program to both the church and the school, and shepherded the students through the application process, according to those involved. Both McKenzie and Hapeville Charter teacher Tracy McClure said that the McClendon Project had sent letters assuring them that the jobs were approved.

McClendon Project founder Mellissa Prescott could not be reached for comment Thursday. But on Wednesday she spoke briefly with the AJC, before hanging up.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “We did everything we were supposed to do and the state didn’t come through.”

The jobs were supposed to be funded by federal stimulus dollars streaming into state coffers. The money was used to expand Georgia's TeenWork program, which previously employed only foster children. The new money allowed the state to expand it to 15,000 jobs for kids from lower-income families, Dena Smith, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Human Services told the AJC Wednesday.

“Far more than 15,000 applied,” she said.

Smith said the application process worked like this: the kids applied online and those who met the age, income and other requirements were selected on a first-come-first-served basis; prospective employers also applied, then the state matched the two based in part on geography.

Both McKenzie from the church and McClure from the Hapeville school said Prescott's non-profit was to be the formal employer, even though the kids were going to be working at their facilities.

Smith, of the Department of Human Services, said her agency knew about the McClendon Project and said officials were investigating because the non-profit did not produce documentation indicating that it could actually employ the students.

"There is an Inspector General investigation on this Mellissa Prescott," Smith told the AJC.

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