UPPER PENINSULA—A Michigan Department of Career Development (MDCD) policy handed down to local branches of Michigan Works!, the state's unemployment and job training agency, prohibits branches from both administering and providing client services and requires instead that their branches contract out services to private vendors.
While the privatization policy has resulted in comparable and cheaper client service for many of the Michigan Works! programs throughout Michigan, county commissioners from all over the state are protesting the fact that the Western Upper Peninsula branch (WUP) of Michigan Works!, which provides its own services, has been denied a waiver from privatization for the first time.
The reason the WUP has been granted waivers in the past was because it consistently had the lowest cost-per-job-placement in the state of Michigan for the Welfare to Work Program, whose services are to be privatized. In fact, in the spring of 1999, WUP actually outbid the private company that will take over its client services, Teaching Family Homes of Marquette.
While Robert Pendleton, director of the Office of Workforce Development for the MDCD, does not deny that WUP has maintained an exemplary record, he says "One of the reasons we go with contracting is that it saves money . . . . Statewide we have saved a lot of money through contracting rather than having staff provide services."
Before the waiver for the new privatization policy was denied, the WUP was the only Michigan Works! branch that had not privatized its client services. Denial of the waiver makes the privatization policy uniform statewide.