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Political shenanigans can dash hopes of people who need help the most

April 30, 2019

Here’s what can happen when a government hand out smacks down a government hand up in Any City, USA.

Christie Buckles, 29, of Baltimore, was on track. With a helping hand from the Department of Social Services, she was being trained by the Maryland Center for Adult Learning (MCAT) to become a certified nursing assistant and a medical technician.

Everything was going well, and she appreciated being aided by her family as well.

It also helped that Social Services further aided her with a $600 stipend, a stipend that’s linked to her participation in the workforce training program.

She had big dreams and high hopes and a board exam set for May 2.

Her big dreams, however, are now deferred.

Everything came crashing down on April 23.

That was the day that FBI and IRS agents raided the homes and offices of embattled Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who is under investigation for alleged “self dealing” in sales of her self-published book series “Healthy Hobby.”

For sure, money and political shenanigans do not always mix.

The fate of Miss Pugh is now tied to that of Ms. Buckles.

How you ask? Miss Pugh was a member of the MCAT board, most recently its chairwoman, from at least 2001 through 2017, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The Sun also said that the MCAT had received “hundreds of thousands of dollars from city, state and federal government agencies to provide training during the past decade.”

Well, on that fateful day for Ms. Buckles and about a dozen others, authorities discovered that the MCAT’s own certification with the Maryland State Board of Nursing had expired last May.

The turn of events has pushed Ms. Buckles backward.

“I feel like we were taken advantage of, and I spent so much time away from my family, and everyone around me sacrificed to see me succeed in it,” she told The Sun. “It’s kind of really upsetting I don’t even know where to start over again.”

She also spoke of her hope: “Hopefully by the time we graduate we don’t need to be dependent on the system anymore. We could go to work and, you know, do things the right way and make our own money.”

Ms. Buckles was preparing to take her board exam on Thursday. But with the center’s closure, it’s unclear whether she will be able to complete her training.

And her dream: “A lot of us don’t really have a lot, so we’re trying to make our lives a little better,” she said, “and now we’re worried about getting our certification.”

The Pugh effect has rippled the lives of others in the training program.

Octavia Dove, 26, is in a program similar to Ms. Buckles’, and was hoping to become not only a certified nursing assistant but also a geriatric assistant.

“I hope they don’t shut this program down because it’s awesome,” Ms. Dove said. “If they close it down, then all of us are gonna have to come up with a plan B.”

Politicians often have good intentions, creating programs that simultaneously offer a hand up and a hand out. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Baltimore City’s did not work, and its failure at stringent oversight and accountability by city authorities is why.

It’s evidence that mayors and city officials who pride themselves on hand outs must do the hard work to prove they themselves are worthy.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.