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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 10, 201612:00 PM EST

Stewart: Jacksonville Journey 2.0 is 'hitting its stride' as remaining $1.9M is allocated

by: David Chapman

Mayor Lenny Curry set aside a $3 million boost toward the Jacksonville Journey program in his budget.

Months later, the bulk of that money will finally have a home within the crime prevention and intervention initiative.

Legislation introduced this week to City Council pegs the remaining $1.9 million for programs that will help fill gaps in neighborhoods where crime has spiked, said Kerri Stewart, Curry’s chief of staff.

The largest funding increases go toward workforce development for teens and young adults, summer jobs and camps, teen programming and childcare vouchers.

Some of the bigger expenditures are:

• The largest appropriation comes in workforce development, which will receive $380,000 for teens and adults ages 16-24. Stewart said for people that age, data showed it was critical to assist the unemployed and underemployed through workforce training in their communities. In a nonscientific poll, Stewart said, teens surveyed mostly wanted to have a job.

• Summer camps and teen programming each received an additional $350,000. The funding will allow camps to be extended by several weeks. Summer is generally a “huge gap,” said Stewart, and those funds will be used to help keep kids occupied instead of being alone and more susceptible to getting into trouble.

• The Early Learning Coalition will receive close to $254,000 in additional funding, mainly for vouchers for parents who want to offset costs for better childcare. Additionally, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission has a program that works with daycare facilities to improve their ratings and make them more attractive to parents. That improvement along with the vouchers will increase early learning and safety, Stewart said.

There have been initiatives from Curry’s extra Journey money that already have been earmarked.

Council recently approved $500,000 for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to pay overtime for officers in crime hot spots.

Another $266,000 was previously approved for the Jacksonville Public Library’s “Library Enhancement Access Program,” commonly known as LEAP. The program takes library services and personnel into the community to help develop better literacy skills.

With the recent bill introduced, the Journey funding Curry secured would be completely allocated. In all, the Journey’s budget is about $5 million.

It took a bit of time to make it here, Stewart said, longer than hoped.

An analytics study procured by the city in the fall took time to determine the best uses of the money.

The Journey Oversight Committee weighed in on the recommendations and resumed meeting regularly in January.

That brought the issues up to speed now and the anti-crime initiative is rolling, she said.

“Jacksonville Journey 2.0 is hitting its stride,” said Stewart.

The extra funding bill needs council approval, but Stewart said early support has been good.

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