Report: Port of Gulfport falls short of job requirements - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Report: Port of Gulfport falls short of job requirements

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The Mississippi Development Authority could be in hot water with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Steps Coalition for failing to retain and create jobs for South Mississippians at the Port of Gulfport.

HUD released a report saying that MDA has violated its obligation to retain 1,286 jobs and to create 1,300 new jobs. HUD says this contradicts the position of MDA and the Port of Gulfport's mission to create new jobs, not retain existing jobs.

This is not the first time this issue has been addressed. HUD has warned MDA before about its failure to track retained jobs at the port.

"For several years, the Steps Coalition has raised concerns with the State's compliance with their disaster recovery plan's commitment to retain jobs for low and moderate income persons," said Executive Director of the Steps Coalition Roberta Avila.

"HUD has now found that MDA is in violation of its duties concerning both permanent and construction jobs at the state port expansion project."

The MDA reported in 2013 that jobs retained at the port fell from over 1,100 to almost 800. HUD also claims the numbers of jobs retained by persons of low income reported by MDA are inconsistent.

The HUD report confirmed only 128 out of 144 jobs were retained by low income people. The minimal number of jobs retained by low income persons represents only 10 percent of the over 1,200 total jobs retained which HUD says falls short of the required 51 percent.

HUD warns that errors in documenting retained jobs risks demonstrating compliance with federal block grant requirements. If state officials fail to meet these requirements, HUD could apply sanctions toward the state.

"It is time for Governor Bryant to re-evaluate the leadership team at MDA responsible for putting a half-billion dollar public infrastructure investment at risk," said Avila.

"This mismanagement of federal block grant dollars is escalating," said Port Campaign Coalition member Ruth Story.

"The promises of well-paying construction jobs for our people seem to be moving further out of reach. We have to put reliable people in charge before we spend one more dollar on this massive project."

HUD has issued new requirements for the port which must be followed to avoid sanctions. The requirements are:

-MDA must document the jobs retained in its newest report to HUD. HUD will then determine whether a majority of the jobs are held by or offered to people with low and moderate income.

-MDA must submit new policies and procedures to document jobs to be created at the port within 60 days.

-MDA must meet with senior HUD staff on a quarterly basis starting in February 2014.

-MDA must document each job retained or created with its quarterly performance report that is turned in to HUD.

-MDA must submit to HUD each agreement as it is executed with a new port business. The agreement must identify time frames for job creation and corrective actions if the business fails to comply with the job creation requirements.

A Port of Gulfport spokesman told WLOX News the port has every intention of complying with the job requirements laid out by HUD.

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