Casey: Feds are neglecting job-training program
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is launching an inquiry into financial shortfall at the federal Departmental of Labor Job Corps, outraged that the valuable job-training program appears to be neglected by the agency and is under an enrollment freeze.
Next week, the Democrat said the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, for which he is chairman, will call Department of Labor officials on the carpet.
"We want to explore the cause of the shortfall, why the department did not deal with it or consider alternatives," he said. "We want to know how this occurred, who is responsible, and how do we make them accountable."
A Department of Labor spokesman said the program had significant cost overruns, which prompted the department to reduce costs, including marketing, student stipends and data center contracts.
"Unfortunately, the savings from these efforts have not been sufficient to meet the budget demands of the current program year," said spokesman Edmund Fitzgerald, prompting the agency to suspend enrollment. "The decision to suspend enrollment was not made lightly."
Pennsylvania has four of the nation's 125 Job Corps locations, including one near Hazleton. Casey recently visited the Job Corps location in Philadelphia where students were being trained as emergency medical technicians, or as long-term care workers in nursing homes. The Job Corps program was created in the 1960s to provide jobs training and counseling for at-risk teens and young adults who face challenges ranging from a skills gap to homelessness. The corps serves about 100,000 clients a year.
In Pennsylvania, the budget shortfalls and half-year enrollment freeze will result in the loss of 450 jobs, and the denial of enrollment to as many as 900 potential students, Casey said. In 2011, the Corps faced a $39 million shortfall and in $61.5 million in 2012.
Casey characterized Job Corps as a valuable government program producing good results for the individuals involved and for the economy. He called upon the inspector general to review the program, but, a former state auditor, Casey said an audit will only reveal part of the story.
Labor Department officials, meanwhile, say they are conducting an internal review of operations.
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