Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bush Cuts Hurt Laid-Off Arkansans

Federal cuts threaten to harm efforts to help laid-off workers in Arkansas, Gov. Mike Beebe says. “The timing of this rescission couldn’t be worse,” Beebe said. “Amidst predictions of national economic downturn, the federal government cuts the very kind of work-force development that is vital to spurring the economy.”

A spokesman for the U. S. Department of Labor’s regional office in Dallas, Diana Petterson, declined to give reasons for cutting $4.3 million from the funds the state receives to train workers. “The rescissions were passed by Congress and the bill was signed by the president,” she said.

U. S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said the White House supported the cuts over objections from the Senate. “The buck stops at President Bush’s doorstep in regards to job-training cuts,” Pryor said. “It is amazing how out of touch the president and his administration are with working Americans. In addition, this year the president is asking for an additional $474 million cut in [work-force services nationwide], and we will strongly fight him on this.”

Pryor said the cuts weren’t in the original Department of Labor appropriation passed by Congress, but Bush vetoed it. The Senate then passed another appropriation bill without the cuts, but the House inserted them with White House support, Pryor said.

Beebe said Washington’s priorities aren’t straight. “The moneys depleted for these work-force-development programs in Arkansas could be paid for by what we are spending in Iraq in the next 24 minutes,” Beebe said. “I support our troops; that is not an issue. But the Bush administration is rescinding funds for programs that help our returning veterans get job skills to re-enter the work force, helps workers who’ve been laid off gain new skills for new jobs, and helps the underemployed and unemployed obtain better jobs and get off taxpayer assistance.”

Beebe said the federal government’s move rescinds money already committed by the state. That’s money, for instance, aimed at paying for dislocated workers taking classes at community colleges since last fall, said Artee Williams, director of the Workforce Services Department. He said the money is meant to help his agency respond when there are massive layoffs at a plant or when a plant burns down, similar to what happened with a Cargill meat-processing plant in Booneville earlier this year.

Excerpted from Seth Blomeley, “State Warns Cuts May Hurt Jobless,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 26 April 2008.

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