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Job-Plan Funding Cuts Challenged in Congress

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Washington--Congressional leaders last week said they oppose the Administration's proposal to eliminate the $617-million Job Corps, which provides training for disadvantaged youths as part of the Job Training Partnership Act.

The lawmakers also attacked the overall package of cuts proposed for the jtpa, which includes the Job Corps and is the federal government's principal employment-training program.

Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Republican of Connecticut, chairman of the panel that approves the program's funding, argued forcefully against eliminating the Job Corps, which is part of the jtpa, saying its benefits to society far outweigh its costs.

But Undersecretary of Labor Ford B. Ford told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education that the Job Corps "can no longer be justified in light of the relatively low completion and job-placement rates and high costs."

Mr. Ford said the cost for each person trained under the program is about $15,000 annually. Senator Weicker, however, disputed that figure, claiming that the cost is closer to $5,000 to $6,000 per person.

Reduction Request

The Job Corps places youths, ages 16 to 21, in residential work programs away from their local neighborhood. It serves the "hard-core"3unemployed, who have had problems with drugs or crime. A recent study showed that 38 percent of the Job Corps participants had arrest records.

The other youth programs under the jtpa provide only nonresidential training; and unlike its predecessor, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, the jtpa does not provide stipends to participants.

The Labor Department is requesting a total of $2.8 billion for the jtpa in fiscal 1986; the Congress has appropriated about $3.6 billion for the program in each of the past two years.

The department is also requesting a $255-million cut in fiscal 1985, already approved by the Congress.

Impact on Programs

The major reductions sought by the Labor Department in the 1986 budget will affect the jtpa's summer youth-employment and training program and assistance program for dislocated workers, as well as the Jobs Corps.

The 1986 budget calls for $664.5 million for the summer youth program, down from $824 million appropriated by the Congress last year. The cut would mean the program would serve about 700,000 youths, 120,000 fewer than this year, Mr. Ford said. The dislocated-worker program would receive $100 million, down from the 1985 level of $222 million.

The department is also requesting a freeze on the $1.9 billion reserved for Title IIA, which serves the eco-nomically disadvantaged. In the past two years, some 40 percent of that money went to youths between the ages of 16 and 21.

Patrick J. O'Keefe, deputy assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, told the committee that approximately 2.2 million participants will be served by the 1986 request, 146,000 fewer than in 1985.

Weicker Opposes Cuts

Senator Weicker quoted a study by Mathematica Policy Research which showed that for every $1 spent on the Job Corps, the program yields $1.45 in funds society will not have to pay in welfare, prison, or health costs.

"What worries me so much ... is that whatever budget savings there are this year, there will be [later] costs that will be staggering," he said.

Senator Weicker also noted that the Job Corps and jtpa serve different purposes and "draw from two different universes. The Job Corps is a cut below the jtpa," serving primarily disadvantaged youths with drug or alcohol problems or criminal records, he said.

Mr. Ford said the request for a decrease in jtpa funds is due to both a drop in the general youth population and a decline in youth unemployment.

But Senator Weicker argued that although the unemployment in the general youth population has dropped, the unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics, who make up a large proportion of those served under the jtpa, has increased.

According to January unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42.1 percent of black teen-agers between the ages of 16 and 19 were unemployed, and 15.8 percent of white teen-agers in the same age group were without work.

The bureau had no figures specifically for Hispanic teen-agers but reported that 10.6 percent of Hispanics over the age of 16 were unemployed. The national unemployment rate for all teen-agers was 18.9 percent.

House Hearings

Hearings on the House side also focused on the jtpa, with a number of witnesses testifying against reduction of funds for the program.

Gov. Richard F. Celeste of Ohio, speaking for the National Governors' Association, told the House Education and Labor Committee that the jtpa is a "flagship piece of legislation in that it appropriately sorts out the roles of the different actors within the employment and training system."

Governor Celeste said one of the criticisms frequently leveled at the jtpa is that outlays for the program have been slow to begin. But he attributed the lag to "concern about starting up a new program and doing it right. ..."

Governor Celeste also called for saving the Job Corps, saying it is ''a valuable tool that should not be abandoned."

Opposition to cutting the two programs was also voiced by the committee's chairman, Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California.

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