In a Workforce Connections Programs committee meeting Wednesday morning, June 15, held in Las Vegas, it was revealed that neither Mesquite Works (MW) nor the Salvation Army (SA) would be awarded any grant money from their recent applications to provide workforce training.

“We are disappointed that we didn’t get the grant. Workforce Connections should have told us upfront that not being a current provider would make it almost impossible to get a grant with this particular program. The good news is that this whole process has put us in touch with the community and that we have learned the details needed for the workforce in this community. It’s pretty clear that this grant might not have produced the best results for Mesquite. We have the jobs here, but we need to bring in training programs,” said Burton Weast, Chairman for MW. Weast and several other members of MW planned to meet later in the day to discuss moving forward with the program without this grant.

The grant would have essentially provided either program with at least $360,000 over the next 12 months to provide Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services to the Mesquite area. The grant would have been equally split between the adult and youth programs for $180,000 each.

According to Ricardo Villalobos, Director of Workforce Development Programs, there wasn’t one particular area that either entity failed in their application, but that it was an accumulation of shortfalls that contributed to the denial.

Initially in March, Mesquite Works was the sole applicant for the program, but was denied the award due to items within the proposal that did not pass the technical review stage of the process. Due to MW being the sole applicant and not qualifying, the grant was offered again, this time with two applicants, who both passed the technical review stage.

Villalobos’ organization contracted with Social Policy Research Associates (SPR) in Oakland, Calif. to use its “impartial scoring rubric to two new sets of RFPs and score incoming proposals.” According to the cover letter provided by SPR, two scorers were trained to provide two completely independent scores of each proposal.

Reviewing the summary of each organization’s scores shows that MW obtained a score of 66.3 percent while SA met the qualifying threshold by scoring 75.2 percent. However, based on comments made by each scorer, it is clear that both RFPs had issues. During the meeting of the WC Board, several members tried to push for the SA to get favor or assurance that they would be part of the sole-sourcing. The members also tried to argue that the award needed to be given to SA, who worked with Nevada

Technically, the SA could have been awarded the grant alone, as they did meet the minimum 75 percent requirement. But Villalobos told the MLN Tuesday that WC may want to go in a different direction. “Even though the SA met the threshold by .2 percent, we are going to recommend doing a sole-source contract award in Mesquite. That is something on our end that we don’t necessarily deem any organization sufficient based on scoring or previous performance,” he said.  “We will get employment training out there.”

Scores for both groups flip-flopped and each had their strengths and weaknesses in the application. When comparing the two, MW scored higher on sections related to Program Staffing and Case Management Strategy; Outreach, Eligibility and Assessment; and overall Budget. The SA scored higher in areas such as Approach; Individual Employment Plan; Training and Development Activities; Youth ISS (Individual Service Strategy); Follow-up Strategies; and Fiscal Narrative. Both organizations tied in the area of Performance Management.

When studying the comments made by the scorers, it was clear that they may have favored the fact that the SA is an established organization while MW is simply getting started.