U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse was among a bipartisan group of 51 lawmakers Wednesday who sent a letter to the U.S. agriculture and labor departments, urging them to rethink their plans to shutter some Job Corps programs and privatize others.
The letter was in response to an announcement late last month from the Labor Department that nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers would be shuttered and 16 others would be transferred to contractors in a federal cost-saving effort.
The 25 centers have been operated for over half a century by the U.S. Forest Service, training at-risk youth in natural resource conservation and natural disaster assistance.
The Fort Simcoe Job Corps west of White Swan is among those slated to be shuttered, while Curlew Job Corps in Ferry County and Columbia Basin Job Corps in Moses Lake would be privatized.
The lawmakers’ letter emphasized that six of the top 15 Job Corps programs – out of a total of 123 nationwide – were CCCs and that the “massive revision of the program (was) undertaken without congressional consultation, notification or approval.”
The lawmakers also stressed that the 25 centers are the only Job Cops programs that assist in natural disaster response, with participants logging 450,000 hours of service in 2017 to support wildfire response and 5,000 hours responding to Hurricane Harvey.
“After a difficult year of natural disasters and with hurricane and wildfire season quickly approaching, now is precisely the wrong tie to be reducing capacity at CCCs,” they said in the letter. “We strongly urge you to maintain the CCC program."
Additionally, the letter asked how the jobs and assistance provided by the CCC programs would be replaced.
Newhouse, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader organized the letter, garnering signatures from 18 senators and 33 representatives on both sides of the political aisle.
Newhouse is a Sunnyside Republican, while Merkley, DeFazio and Schrader are Oregon Democrats.
The letter comes after Newhouse proposed an amendment to the 2020 U.S. agriculture budget Tuesday that would block federal funds from being used to shutter or transfer operations of the CCC programs. The amendment was approved by the U.S. Appropriations Committee and is headed for the House floor.
On Monday, President Trump canceled plans to close the Anaconda CCC in Montana after reviewing its ratings, according to local media.