The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month the three Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles and Prince George’s recorded a 6.1% unemployment rate in October, the lowest figure this year.

Since the coronavirus pandemic affected the majority Black jurisdiction of Prince George’s last year, the county has lost about 30,000 jobs.

Employ Prince George’s, a quasi-government agency, seeks to help boost the job market by distributing more than $326,000 in grants for 12 entrepreneurs who will hire unemployed county residents.

The agency congratulated each business Thursday, Dec. 16 at the American Job Center at Tanger Outlets in Oxon Hill.

“Anytime you can get money you don’t have to pay back is a major plus,” said state Sen. Obie Patterson (D-District 26) of Fort Washington. “This not only helps the small businesses but also helps people get back to work and pay taxes. This is on the red carpet for Christmas. It couldn’t be a better time to show our love and appreciation for these small businesses.”

The grants funneled from the state represent part of Employ Prince George’s COVID-19 rapid re-employment program. As part of the application process, entrepreneurs needed to illustrate how their businesses became negatively affected since March 16, 2020.

Charity Barrett talks about her company, Fort Washington-based Progeny Enterprises Inc., receiving a grant to hire Prince George’s County residents. Barrett is one of 12 local entrepreneurs sharing more than $326,000 in grants from Employ Prince George’s. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

A program summary shows a new employee must start within 30 days of the business’s grant application.

Charity Barrett, owner of Progeny Enterprises, Inc. of Fort Washington, said she closed a child-care center called Perfect Angels last year. The center reopened with about 20 children enrolled. It’s licensed to have up to 71 children, “so that gives you the idea of the hit that we took during the pandemic,” said Barrett, who became an entrepreneur at age 25 and established Progeny in 2005.

Barrett’s company will receive $37,620 to hire five employees that includes three full timers and two part-time executive assistants. She currently has seven employees and up to six independent contractors.

“We wouldn’t be able to make ends meet without getting some type of assistance,” she said of the grant. “This will be wonderful to help us . . . and to hire Prince George’s County residents. I am thankful.”

Vianca Walker, who has owned “Veez Bizzy Beez” since 1996, received $4,000 to employ a teacher’s aide to work with children ages 5 to 12 years old enrolled in the child-care center before and after care program.

“During this pandemic, this is the most I’ve ever seen the county helping out businesses,” she said. “This is a big deal.”

Employ Prince George’s continues to host in-person and virtual jobs, career-readiness and veteran’s workshops and other activities.

The agency, through its Transportation and Logistics Consortium program (TALC), will partner with the county executive’s office for returning citizens and young adults 18 to 24 to package and deliver food throughout the county Dec. 28.

Each person participating will be paid and receive training on learning how to drive trucks, operate forklifts and other equipment.

Walter Simmons, president and CEO of Employ Prince George’s, said the agency will manage a mobile job center traveling throughout the county starting next year.

“You might see us at somebody’s cookout. If we see a group of people, we’re going to pull up. Just want to make sure everyone has a job,” he said. “That mobile job center is going to be a game-changer.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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