Legislators push to protect Job Corps

Elizabeth Richards, a volunteer tutor at Angell Job Corps, speaks on the importance of Job Corps at Sen. Jeff Merkley’s town hall on Friday. (Photos by Stephanie Blair)

House Bill passes, senators take action

YACHATS — Legislators are making progress at the national level toward maintaining Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers at their current numbers and under their current administration.

On June 12, U.S. Rep. Peter Defazio, D-Ore., testified on the House floor on behalf of the amendment he offered to the “Departments of Labor, Health and Human Service, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.” The amendment — co-sponsored by Defazio, Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Dan Newhouse, D-Wash., and Greg Gianforte, R-Mont. — was the 13th considered and prohibits any funds appropriated to the Job Corps program from being used to either alter or terminate the interagency agreement between the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture that governs the Job Corps CCC program.

During his time on the floor, Defazio laid out statistics and anecdotes about the success and importance of these programs.

“Many of these young adults, being at risk, come from rural communities, and these programs provide them with cutting-edge vocational training and pathways out of poverty in addition to providing critical opportunities to struggling rural areas,” said Defazio. “Beyond this, CCCs provide essential capacity for the Forest Service to fulfill its mission … This is wrong for our rural communities, wrong for the Forest Service and it is wrong to abandon at-risk youth by killing this program. Now is the wrong time to be reducing capacity.”

U.S. Reps. Schrader, Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Sanford Bishop, D-Georgia, Newhouse and Cathy Rodgers, R-Wash., all spoke in support of the amendment. The vote passed the amendment, 313-109.

Senator calls for sit-down

On Friday, Sen. Jeff Merkley spoke with the News-Times and later at his town hall meeting about the steps he is taking to keep Oregon’s CCCs alive. In addition to the bi-partisan letter to the secretaries of agriculture and labor, Sonny Perdue and Alexander Acosta, respectively.

After speaking twice with Perdue, Merkley says that the secretary has agreed to a sit-down and the Oregon delegation will have a chance to make their case for Job Corps CCCs.

“He says he has evidence that they’re not well run, we have evidence that they are well run and we plan to present that,” Merkley told the News-Times on Friday, “and show how vital these are for both the youth and for the broader community, particularly in these programs in which they help reduce the risk of wildfire.”

Merkley also commented that he had spoken with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who has three centers in his state.

“One of them is in the poorest county in his state and one of the poorest counties in America,” said Merkley. “So he’s very concerned … So stay tuned, I feel like we have a strong, bipartisan objection being raised, and I intend to keep pressing hard.”

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