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WAGES boss leaves post to make way for merger


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 6, 2000

TAMPA -- Phyllis Busansky has resigned as director of Florida's welfare reform agency, which is being reconstituted and merged into a new agency that will handle the state's worker training and welfare programs.

"It just made total sense. The fact of the matter is the boards are merging, and I totally support that," Busansky, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, said Monday.

Busansky took over the reins of the state WAGES board, which stands for Work and Gain Economic Self-Sufficiency, in 1997, making her the agency's first and only director.

WAGES was created in response to state and federal legislation that overhauled welfare laws by requiring most people to get off welfare after set periods of time. Worker training and education opportunities have been increased in an effort to help people find jobs.

She said she supported merging WAGES with the state's Workforce Development Board, which provides worker training.

"I think that dealing with welfare recipients has to be connected with the education and training component. (When) we have two separate agencies doing it, it doesn't connect as well."

She said she was pleased that the number of people on welfare in Florida has declined 80 percent since she signed on, but "it's just beginning and it's got a long way to go. We need to be a lot more careful about customer service and customer education and quality assurance."

The work of WAGES will now be folded into Workforce Florida Inc., a public-private partnership designed to streamline the process of getting workers trained and into jobs.

Busansky said she had no immediate plans for a new job, but ruled out running for office this year.

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