Democrats and some work force advocates are warning of grave consequences to job-training programs if budget cuts proposed by U.S. congressional Republicans are enacted.
The director of the retraining office in Moline even predicted his operation would shut down this summer if the GOP plan makes it into law.
House Republicans were debating a measure Thursday for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, a proposal that would cut $100 billion from President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget request.
Among the proposed cuts are $3 billion for adult training, dislocated workers assistance and youth training programs.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Iowa would lose $14 million from the proposal.
It’s not clear what is at stake statewide in Illinois, but Chuck Stewart, director of the Partners in Job Training and Placement office, said Thursday the cuts would shut his office down.
“We wouldn’t be open six weeks after July 1,” he said. “I doubt we’d last six weeks.”
Stewart’s office helps laid off workers get retraining and assists them, as well as young people, find jobs.
The office also is preparing to help up to about 400 Rock Island Arsenal workers who are expected to stay in the Quad-Cities when the TACOM office on the island moves its operations to Detroit later this year. The move was required by the 2005 base closing process.
“What concerns me is we’re cutting a jobs program during a recession,” Stewart said Thursday.
Cathy Wiebel, director of the Iowa@Work office in the Quad-Cities, said she doesn’t anticipate being shut down, but the cuts would significantly affect operations.
She added there would likely be staff layoffs. What might happen to people who currently are getting retraining through the office isn’t clear.
“It depends when they cut it off,” she said.
She, too, said the programs have been helpful with the spike in unemployment rates in recent years.
“Job training at a time when we have high unemployment is really important to people,” Wiebel said.
About 800 people got retraining help in the Iowa Quad-City office, with more receiving assistance finding a job. Stewart said his office served 3,000 overall.
Republicans announced details of their budget plan last Friday, and they’ve defended the cuts to the worker retraining programs.
A summary of their proposal said the programs had “significant carryover balances from prior year appropriations.” And, they said, there was $1.5 billion in “advance funding” available to be spent this year.
Program advocates said, however, those carryovers and advances have, in many cases, been obligated because of a highly stressed economy.
The House’s budget proposal, which was being subjected to hundreds of amendment proposals this week, would pay for government operations through September.
Current spending authority runs out on March 4.
The president, whose 2011 plan was never enacted, already has said he would veto the GOP measure.
Meanwhile, Democrats who control the Senate also are pushing back against the proposed spending cuts.
House Republicans, particularly freshmen, have said they want to reduce federal spending significantly.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., one of those freshmen, withheld comment on the retraining provisions Thursday, saying they could be changed in the Senate or at a conference committee.