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Workforce board could lose right to spend $18 million

August 21, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

The Imperial County Workforce Investment Board found out Monday night it has as much as $18 million to spend over the next two years — but the money can only be used for a specific type of client and under strict regulations.

If the board can't spend all the money, it is in jeopardy of losing some of it because of changes to the federal budget, said Sam Couchman, county director of the Office of Employment Training and a member of the board.

"At the federal level, they recognize some of this money is not being spent, so they are taking back a small portion," Couchman said. "But it may be returned to us in job-training programs."

The WIB came under fire later in the evening from the Johnson Educational Institute, which prepared an unsolicited proposal for employment, training and information services to outlying areas of the county not receiving such services.

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The Rev. James Addison, executive director of JEI, was angry because he had been told he would have a decision on the proposal Monday night. A decision was not made while the board instead debated how to handle unsolicited proposals. The JEI proposal went back to committee for further review.

Most of the $18 million is for the dislocated worker program, which helps those who have lost their jobs because their employer closed the facility where they worked.

There is a lot of money in the dislocated worker category. The problem is recruiting such workers, Couchman said. There are other restrictions such as tying the money to worker performance.

"Imperial County has the sixth-largest budget in the state for the dislocated worker program," said Roger Schmitt, the state's regional adviser to the board. "There are few exceptions where that money could be spent in another category."

Couchman said Imperial County has a large dislocated worker budget based on the unemployment rate.

"We have the highest unemployment rate in the state, by percentage," Couchman said. "However, it doesn't take into account some of the unemployed are not dislocated workers."

Staff writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or la_mitchel1@yahoo.com

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