Casey Statement on HELP Hearing on Job Corps Budget Shortfall

Washington DC- Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, released the following statement after holding a hearing on the Job Corps Budget Shortfall: Safeguarding Workforce Training for America’s Disconnected Youth.

“Job Corps plays a critical role in helping at risk youth to be competitive in the workforce. I called for this hearing as a first step in providing a measure of accountability at the Department of Labor for recent shortfalls. While the Department of Labor has provided some insight into the budgetary gap, more needs to be done to rectify the inadequate financial management of this valuable program. We should not allow bureaucratic mismanagement to prevent qualified young people from getting the training they need to obtain good jobs.”

Witnesses who testified at the hearing include:

  • Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration, United States Department of Labor, Washington, DC
  • Antoine Dixon, National Director of Job Corps for the US Forest Service, Golden, CO
  • Elliot Lewis, Assistant Inspector General for Audit, United States Department of Labor, Washington, DC

The Department of Labor recently announced an enrollment freeze at Job Corps Programs around the country which will cost 400 jobs in Pennsylvania and prohibit the ability of at-risk youth to receive critical job training skills.  

Pennsylvania has four Job Corps sites across the Commonwealth: Keystone, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Red Rock.  These facilities provide disadvantaged youth with the opportunity to gain the skills needed to secure a good job, enter the Armed Services, or further their education.  Students, educators and community leaders rely on the contributions Pennsylvania’s Job Corps centers make to their communities. Senator Casey has visited some of these centers in Pennsylvania.

The full copy of Senator Casey’s letter is below:

The Honorable Daniel R. Petrole
Deputy Inspector General
Office of Inspector General

Dear Mr. Petrole:

I am writing to express my serious concerns with the management of the Job Corps program by the Department of Labor.  I am requesting that you conduct an investigation into the program and the source of its budgetary problems.

On January 18, 2013, the Department announced that it was freezing all new enrollments at the 125 Job Corps centers nationwide, due to a $60 million budgetary shortfall for program year 2012.  This freeze will result in significant job losses.  Pennsylvania will be one of the hardest hit states, with more than 400 layoffs projected—the fifth most in the country.  The freeze will also prevent almost 30,000 students from attending Job Corps, including more than 1,300 students at centers in Pennsylvania.

I am deeply troubled by these cuts, particularly since this is the second year in a row where the program has suffered from a major financial shortfall.  This kind of repeated problem raises serious questions about the management by the Department.  Pursuant to the Inspector General Act of 1978, 5 USC App., I ask that your office investigate the Department’s administration of the Job Corps program. 

Specifically, I ask that you investigate the following:

  • In a letter to Senators Harkin and Shelby dated June 20, 2012, the Department states that the program year 2011 shortfall went unrecognized in large part because Job Corps lacked needed “program monitoring tools and internal controls.”  Did the Department take the necessary steps to implement these tools and controls after this first shortfall?
  • It is my understanding that despite facing an initial shortfall in program year 2011, the Job Corps failed to obligate all of the funding appropriated to it, allowing $5.6 million to expire on June 30, 2012.  Why did the Department fail to make use of this funding prior to its expiration?
  • In its June 20, 2012 letter, the Department lists a number of specific long-term improvements it planned to take to prevent additional shortfalls.  Did the Department implement these steps?  If so, why were they ineffective at preventing a shortfall in program year 2012?
  • Has the Department effectively communicated with the operators of the job corps centers about budgetary issues?  Please provide an outline of how the Department conducts these types of communication.  Has the Department made use of cost-saving measures proposed by the operators in order to lower expenditures?
  • What were the root causes of the program year 2012 shortfall, and how do those problems compare to the program year 2011 shortfall?

At a time when Congress is looking to reduce spending, it is critical that programs like Job Corps operate efficiently in order to serve as many students as possible with the resources available. 

Thank you for attention to this request.  I look forward to your response,

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

 

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