Our Opinion: A well-financed burden

August 23, 2001

It's rare when anyone, particularly a government body, has more money than it can use.

That is the dilemma the county Workforce Investment Board is facing, and a huge dilemma it is. It is, in fact, an $18 million dilemma.

Here's the rub. The county has $18 million to spend over the next two years to retrain "dislocated" workers, but officials may not be able to find enough dislocated workers to use up the $18 million. One would think in a county with unemployment rates often hovering around 30 percent, it would be easy to find any sort of unemployed person. Local job-training/job-placement people say that is not the case.

The unfortunate part of this situation is that the training money can only be spent on dislocated workers, and a chunk of the money will have to be returned to the federal budget if not so spent, according to changes in the federal budget.


According to county officials, the regulations regarding such funding are strict and there are few exceptions for where the money can be spent. The money is aimed specifically at dislocated workers, meaning those who lost their jobs because of the closing of facilities.

Imperial County got the large sum for the program because of its high unemployment rate. It actually got the sixth-highest amount in the state, which is fairly remarkable because Imperial County is nowhere near the top six counties in California population-wise.

The sad thing about this situation is that while we have a huge unemployment rate, we don't have a lot of dislocated workers, because not many local facilities have closed recently. Sure, there have been closures, but they have not resulted in massive layoffs.

What we have here in Imperial County is an area plagued by long-term unemployment and an economy largely based on the seasonal nature of agriculture. We also have many people whose job prospects are plagued by lack of language skills and lack of job training and work skills. Money sent here to address such ills would be better addressed.

That is not the case, though. What employment officials will have to do is search out dislocated workers, both those who are already dislocated and who will be with future closings.

While that is a burden, at least it is a well-financed burden.

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