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US Stimulus Funds Provide Job Training, Food in Los Angeles


In February, President Obama signed a massive stimulus package to create jobs and offer a boost to the sluggish U.S. economy. Today, the funds are flowing around the United States for projects ranging from highway construction to development of alternative energy sources. Stimulus funds are bringing jobs and other benefits to Los Angeles.

Young people are getting job training at the Watts Health Center, a non-profit inner-city clinic. California's unemployment rate is 11 percent, and the rate is even higher in this neighborhood.

Stimulus funds are providing on-the-job training at the clinic for 25 young people, including 19-year-old Kiahre Lee, who is working as a clerical assistant.

"It is a big opportunity for me," said Kiahre Lee. "It is a good start since I am doing office work. It is a good, you could say, push to a better career."

Kiahre's coworker, 18-year-old trainee Tierra Hawkins, hopes to become a social worker, like those she works with here.

City officials are training several-thousand additional young people this year with $12 million in stimulus funds. A $45-million infusion is expanding the adult jobs program as well, says Gregory Burks of the Los Angeles Community Development Department.

"It has allowed not only the city of Los Angeles, but all the municipalities the opportunity to train and to place double the amount of people that we generally place and train," said Gregory Burks.

He says workers are being trained in banking and other high paying industries.

"The fields are health care, logistics, some security, and also transportation," he said.

He says other trainees will work construction, which is now in a slump but is expected to pick up with new public works projects.

College student Nicole Graves is being trained as a journalist under the city program. She helps write a newsletter that keeps young people informed about youth opportunities and is grateful for the help from the president and Congress.

"It is giving me an opportunity to strengthen my skills in journalism and also just to strengthen myself as a person," said Nicole Graves.

The stimulus funds have also sent trainees to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, which distributes food to hundreds of Los Angeles charities. The workers are paid by another local program, newly expanded with federal help, says foodbank head Michael Flood.

"And we have had up to 15, 20, and at times more than 20 people here at the food bank as part of that program," said Michael Flood.

The organization receives surplus food from producers and processors, and buys food using cash from contributors.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also provides food, and stimulus funds are being used to expand those shipments. Flood says 50 additional truckloads of government-purchased food have started arriving.

"It is a whole range of especially protein food items, eggs and peanut butter, meat items and other items that are really always in high demand," he said. "And the USDA is acquiring this food and then distributing it through food banks throughout the United States."

Workers from local food pantries come here for supplies. Earl Hill, who works for a church-based charity, says requests for help are up as more people lose their jobs.

'We usually feed about 60 or 65 every Wednesday," said Earl Hill. "We just give them boxes of food for the week. And now it is about 100 or 125."

Michael Flood says food-bank demand is up throughout Los Angeles by about 30 percent, and that the added help is needed.

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