Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cuts to the Left of Us, Reductions to the Right

Residents of the District of Columbia – particularly those who are part of the DC advocacy community – are awaiting anxiously the Friday, April 1, release of Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed budget for FY2012. The budget is expected to be challenging. With the District facing a projected shortfall of $322 million, no program is likely to be spared completely. That includes workforce development, job readiness, adult literacy, and related supportive services.

The FY2011 budget for the DC Department of Employment Services (DOES) includes a total of $75 million in general (non-federal) funds. Of that, approximately $41 million is dedicated to workforce development, which includes adult job training, the Summer Youth Employment Program, year-round youth job training and placement programs, and other related services. From that $41 million total, rumor has it that DOES was required to cut more than $5.2 million for the FY2012 budget – a cut of more than 10 percent. While not catastrophic all by itself, this cut will be painful.

Unfortunately, the bad news does not end there.

As you may remember, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1 in February, which proposed drastic cuts to a broad range of federal program. HR 1 cut federal funding for job training in the current fiscal year – FY2011 – to zero. The continuing resolutions passed since HR 1, while slightly less draconian, also slash spending for job training.

The US Senate is expected propose a lower level of cuts to job training, but it is clear that the final picture will be grim.

In the District of Columbia, as in many other jurisdictions, federal funding supports One-Stop Career Centers, probably the single most accessible source of assistance for people who need to file for unemployment, find jobs, and connect with job training programs. The DC Works! Career Centers – our One-Stops -- are funded entirely with federal monies. If the federal cuts are as large as it appears they may be, that resource will become much less available to DC residents as soon as July.

To recap -- we are facing federal funding cuts to job training programs for the balance of FY2011 – cuts which will likely extend through FY2012. Those cuts will be followed by significant cuts to local funding for job training for FY2012.

If you’re scared, you are not alone. But you are not powerless. You have a voice regarding the District’s budget.

The Council of the District of Columbia will hold hearings to address the Mayor’s budget beginning in early April. The hearing on the DOES budget is set for Tuesday, April 12, at 1:00 pm, before the Committee on Housing & Workforce Development. The committee will meet in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW. If you wish to testify, please contact Drew Hubbard, Clerk of the Committee, at dhubbard (at) dccouncil.us or (202) 724-8198. While you will be limited to 3 minutes of oral testimony, your written testimony becomes part of the official record in full.

With an unemployment rate in excess of 9 percent in the District, It is critical that we preserve and strengthen our city’s workforce development system. A strong system will ensure the long-term viability of the District’s economy, and help ensure that all of its citizens have the opportunity to participate. With sufficient resources devoted to job training, workforce readiness, adult literacy, and supportive services, we can, in a sense, create tens of thousands of taxpayers. These taxpayers, in turn, will contribute to the District’s coffers and those of their neighborhoods, climb the ladder to self-sufficiency, and help prepare themselves and their children for good jobs in a growing economy.

We’ll see you at the hearing on April 12.

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