Gaming the system

It might be great for states to use federal stimulus money to devise a job creation program like the Comprehensive Education and Training Act program in 1970s. By the time that shut down, it had benefited many, unemployed people setting them on a fresh career path. But it was also a source, not surprisingly, of fraud. Maybe some of you old timers will remember the story of the federally-funded pickup basketball games outside a warehouse in North Philadelphia.

In the 1970s, weatherization workers were paid through CETA working under contract with various organizations. One of those contracts, for $300,000,  went to the North Philadelphia Block Development Corp., founded by former state Senator Milton Street. KYW-TV's investigative team parked a van across from group's warehouse, and using a hidden camera, filmed six consecutive days, five hours a day. The crews had busy days -- hours of pickup basketball, followed by stickball, followed by lots of lounging. At the time, Street said the employees were waiting for a delivery of storm windows. Plus, KYW's team discovered that 18 of the 38 employees double-dipping by receiving their welfare checks and their weatherization pay checks. Street denounced the story as "totally absurd."

Thirty years is enough time to forget these sorry details, but they do serve as a cautionary note. Fraud abounds and it would be a shame to waste money on miscreants when there are so many people who need a hand. To learn more about money available for job creation under the stimulus act, read my articles in Saturday's and Sunday's Inquirer.