Gov. McMaster awards over $12 million in GEER Funds

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster today announced a $12.05 million investment in the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to expand juvenile delinquency prevention programs. The programs assist students who are at an increased risk of dropping out of school or becoming juvenile offenders as a result of the education, social, and emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds come from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund as authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

“The long-drawn-out closure of a number of South Carolina schools has dealt a blow to the educational and social development of some of our most vulnerable young people,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “These funds will directly change the course of lives and communities throughout the state. Our goal is to invest in these young people at an early age and give them the tools and resources they need to stay ‘outside the fence’ rather than in the ‘inside the fence’ at the Department of Juvenile Justice.”

“We aren’t sitting back and waiting for youth to be referred to DJJ before stepping in to help,” said DJJ Director Freddie Pough. “That’s why we proactively offer front-end prevention and intervention services to support families and keep our state’s youth from unnecessarily penetrating the juvenile justice system. The COVID-19 pandemic has unequivocally impacted youth and families – educationally, socially and emotionally. With a potential for increased delinquency due to this pandemic, these funds will allow us to meet youth where they are and reinvest in the next generation of South Carolinians.”

The funds allocated to DJJ will be invested as follows:

$4.8 million for community-based and evidenced-based therapy programs targeted to keep children in school and living at home. The therapists will work within the homes, schools, and communities to address the mental health and risky behaviors of students. Family therapists will also provide intensive in-home family counseling. The programs will target four geographic areas: The Pee Dee and Horry County; the Trident area of Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties; the Midlands; and the Upstate, Greenville, and Spartanburg Counties. $4.0 million for the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance to work with DJJ to provide summer and after-school programs to at-risk middle school students in primarily rural areas. $2.0 million for full-time mentoring programs that support education and life skills development. The objective is to decrease incarceration and out-of-home placement rates by reducing crime, and anti-social behaviors such as drug abuse. Targeted areas include Anderson, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, North Charleston, Rock Hill, and Spartanburg. $1.25 million for Teen After-School Centers, which support at-risk high school students. These centers have documented success in reducing recidivism, absences, and out-of-school suspensions while improving grades. DJJ will provide GED testing to youth through the Centers. The original GEER Fund allocation was a one-time grant funded by monies received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. South Carolina’s initial GEER Fund allocation was $48 million. Today’s announcement completes the awarding of original GEER Fund monies that totaled $48,467,924.

Governor McMaster previously invested GEER funds in the following initiatives:

$4,913,000 to the S.C. Department of Social Services for educational needs of foster care children and youth in group homes $9,000,000 to the state’s public charter schools to offset increased enrollment costs $8,000,000 to S.C. Technical College System for short-term training programs $5,000,0000 to Office of First Steps to School Readiness for expanded day or summer programs for four-year-olds eligible for the full-day 4K program $2,000,000 to the S.C. Department of Education for expanded day or summer programs for four-year-olds eligible for the full-day 4K program $6,000,000 to the University of South Carolina for 8 regional computer labs $1,500,000 to the S.C. Department of Commerce for the South Carolina Workforce Journey Initiative Source: