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Workforce centers in danger

Federal budget cuts amounting to $3.6 billion nationwide proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives could spell doom for workforce centers statewide, including the one in South Boston.

Those cuts stem from a proposed resolution in the House that would eliminate funding for the Workforce Investment Act.

The goal of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was to reform federal job training programs and create a new, comprehensive workforce investment system. The reformed system was intended to be customer-focused, to help Americans access the tools they needed to manage their careers through information and high quality services, and to help U.S. companies find skilled workers.

The South Boston Workforce Center opened its doors at its present location at 2506 Houghton Avenue on Dec. 14, 2009.

Local officials said Thursday they have not received any formal notification of any impending legislation that would cut funding for the workforce center.

Deborah Crowder, Workforce Investment Board executive director for Area 8, said the proposed cuts would eliminate training and retraining programs for adults, dislocated workers and youth.

Area 8 consists of workforce centers in Farmville, Charlotte Courthouse and South Hill, in addition to South Boston.

She said they received funding totaling just under $1.5 million this year through the Workforce Investment Act, along with an additional $444,000 for rapid response funds for dislocated workers.

“We are serving 139 youth and over 700 adults and dislocated workers with training in Area 8,” Crowder said.

“We pay for tuition, books and supplies to approved vendors,” she explained. “We also reimburse customers for travel to and from training and provide daycare.”

Crowder said the South Boston Workforce Center currently averages 200 customers a day. 

When asked about the possible budget cuts U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th District, said Wednesday, “I have a long record of supporting workforce training, and I will continue to look for ways to support those programs within the context of a balanced budget.

“But let’s not forget that on Nov. 2 the people of the 5th District made it clear that we must put a stop to out of control government spending,” Hurt said. “With over $14 trillion in debt and $1.6 trillion in deficit spending stifling our economic recovery, I am committed to making the tough choices to rein in spending so that our employers will have the confidence necessary to create the long-lasting private sector jobs the people of the 5th District need and deserve.

“The decisions we face are not easy, but we have not been given an easy task,” he continued. “Now is the time to act and to act boldly if we are serious about leaving a better America for our children and our grandchildren.”