Coalition: HUD Reports Confirm Port’s Jobs Failures

May 15, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Roberta Avila
Steps Coalition
228-229-8552

Reilly Morse
Mississippi Center for Justice
228-383-3348

Diane Glauber
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
202-662-8303

Coalition: HUD Reports Confirm Port’s Jobs Failures
Gulfport Community Organizations Call for New Direction

(May 15 2013) Two separate reports just issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have found pervasive non-compliance by the Mississippi State Port Authority and Mississippi Development Authority with federal job requirements in the Port of Gulfport restoration project. These deficiencies jeopardize the MSPA’s ability to meet its obligations to ensure that low- and moderate-income residents have access to employment, training, and contracting opportunities at the port. These failures put Mississippi at risk of repayment of disaster CDBG funds. The HUD findings confirm the criticisms leveled by the Port Campaign Coalition and the Steps Coalition about the State’s administration of this major infrastructure project.

In the first report, HUD found the following deficiencies in MSPA and MDA’s performance under the Katrina Community Development Block Grant program:

  • Failure to adequately document the retention of 1,286 jobs, 51% of which must be held by persons of low and moderate income.
  • Failure to correctly specify the low and moderate income level in contracts with its tenants. MSPA was only able to document that 50 jobs had been retained out of 1,286 jobs identified in its 2008 action plan.

MSPA was not able to document that any of these jobs were held by persons of low and moderate income. In addition, MSPA contracted with its tenants to create jobs using a higher income qualification than the law requires. HUD also warned MSPA not to count toward the job creation/retention total any transportation jobs that are not direct hires by MSPA. The State has been given 45 days to correct these deficiencies.

In the second report, HUD cited MDA and MSPA for numerous instances of noncompliance with Section 3*, including:

  • Failure to meet the minimum numerical goals for employment and contracting opportunities in the use of HUD community development funds.
  • Failure to notify Section 3 residents about training or employment opportunities.
  • Failure to provide preference to Section 3 residents and businesses in the award of contracts.

MSPA’s records from 2009-2012 showed not only that the agency has not met the minimum contracting and hiring requirements, but that it reported all zeros for both activities. According to HUD, MDA has not practiced due diligence to ensure that agencies and contractors meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 3. All told, HUD cited the State for eight separate instances of non-compliance with Section 3 and has given the State 60 days to bring itself into compliance with the law.

“Residents have long complained that the Port has done nothing to create job and contracting opportunities in our neighborhoods, and here is the proof that we were right,” said Frances Fredericks of the North Gulfport Civic Club.

“The State’s score for low-income jobs and contracts is a zero,” added Ruth Story, of the Gulfport Branch NAACP.

“We are thrilled that HUD appears ready to use every tool it has to force Mississippi to comply with its jobs duties concerning this $600 million dollar federal grant,” said Glenn Cobb of the Port Campaign Coalition.

“For years we have insisted that this federally-funded project offer access to jobs to local community members,” said Roberta Avila, executive director of the Steps Coalition. “Whatever training and local hiring mechanisms the Port has used so far have failed. It is now time for a new direction. We look forward to working with HUD and the Port to develop real solutions."

The Port Campaign Coalition and the Steps Coalition are represented by the Mississippi Center for Justice, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

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*Section 3 is a set of legal duties contained in the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. It requires state and local recipients of federal aid to meet numerical goals for hiring, training, and contracting with public housing and low-income residents on certain types of projects that receive federal housing funds. The purpose of Section 3 is to increase incomes of low-income people by making more jobs available to them. Typically, 30 percent of persons hired under a covered contract must be Section 3 residents.