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$2.3M HUD Jobs Plus grant offers Jacksonville families chance to get out of public housing



.3M HUD Jobs Plus grant offers Jacksonville families chance to get out of public housing

Linesha Bryant has lived in public housing for the past seven years. Now, after three years participating in the Housing and Urban Development Jobs Plus program, she is gainfully employed and transitioning toward home ownership. 

“My goals were homeownership, financial stability and a career in the health care field,” Bryant told reporters Wednesday. “It is now hard to believe my kids and I are getting into position to move out of public housing.”

Bryant spoke about her experience after Richard Monocchio, U.S. Housing and Urban Development principal deputy assistant secretary, presented the Jacksonville Housing Authority with a second $2.3 million grant to continue operating the Jobs Plus program. 

Jacksonville was one of 14 housing authorities to receive the grant Wednesday. The program aims to help connect residents in federal housing properties to opportunities beyond their physical home: from assistance in utilities and grocery shopping to job and educational training.

How does the HUD Jobs Plus program work?

The authority received its first grant for the program in 2020 and currently helps over 200 people, Lateshia Jackson, a data specialist for the program, said. 

Residents in scattered HUD properties across the city can apply for the program at any time. If accepted, they participate for four years, in which they can receive assistance in an array of areas in order to help them focus on growing their careers. 

Normally, HUD properties charge residents 30% of their income which can fluctuate. As part of Jobs Plus, the payments stay the same, even if salaries rise, in order to provide “incentive,” Monocchio said. 

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Jackson has seen residents receive gas cards, bus tickets, CPR classes or even diapers for their kids, as well as payment assistance for job training or GED classes. 

“Not everybody is the same,” Jackson said. “It’s different. It’s not one size fits all. You hear their story. You meet them where they are, and you help them through.”

Donna Deegan and other mayors talk with President Biden about Jobs Plus

Jacksonville has increased its programs over the past year to provide homeownership assistance or improve an existing residence. Mayor Donna Deegan attended Wednesday’s event after speaking with President Joe Biden and other participating mayors over the phone the night before and said the program was a continuation of her priorities as well. 

She said she is working to grow the number of Jacksonville Small and Emerging Businesses, streamline the permitting system and advocate for the remaining portion of the community benefits agreement portion of the Jaguars stadium deal that would place more money into workforce development opportunities. 

Affordable housing resources: Struggling to find affordable housing in Northeast Florida? These resources may help

“Our collective efforts and investments will mean people from all walks of life can benefit from living wages and upward mobility in their career,” Deegan said. “So let’s keep working together to be a city that works for all of us.”

Bryant, a mother of three and soon-to-be program graduate, is continuing her education. She encouraged other HUD residents to apply.

“Take advantage of the opportunity because a lot of courses and trainings are expensive,” Bryant said. “So if somebody is willing to pay for it, why not take advantage of the opportunity.”

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