Job Corps halts admissions citing costs

Feb. 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Labor Department, citing cost overruns, has halted enrollment in the Job Corps for the third time since 2011, angering two Democratic lawmakers.

The program, created in 1965 under Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, offers low income young people the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and training and certifications in some 100 different vocations.

The Washington Post said Saturday the enrollment freeze could mean as many as 30,000 underprivileged youths aren't given the chance to enroll and some 10,000 staff members could be on the chopping bloc.

Democratic lawmakers who support the program said poor management is to blame for the budget problems and noted the poor timing, with an economy poised to rebound but unemployment remaining painfully high, especially among minority communities.

"The timing of this freeze could not be worse," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md. "Though our economy is adding jobs, the number of unemployed remains high. If you add to that the fact that many of the unemployed do not possess the basic skills to fill even the few jobs that are available, what you have is a country standing at a crossroads."

The program also halted admissions last summer and in 2011 -- though it had never happened previously in its history.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., who is the chairman of the Labor subcommittee overseeing the Jobs Corps, said he has ordered an investigation into the budget overruns. The program, which is supposed to cost $61.5 million annually, will be the subject of Senate hearings in the coming weeks.

"We need to know why it's happened and why they didn't consider other alternatives," said Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.). "Maybe it has nothing to do with the program. Maybe it's a management failure."

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