U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Sunnyside Republican, proposed an amendment to the 2020 U.S. agriculture budget Tuesday that would block the closure of nine Job Corps programs nationwide.
That includes the Fort Simcoe Job Corps west of White Swan.
Among 123 Job Corp programs nationwide, there are 25 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers dating to 1964 that are operated by the U.S. Forest Service in rural areas within or near forestlands. These centers focus on training in natural resources conservation and natural disaster assistance.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed that nine of these sites would be shuttered while the remaining 16 would be transferred to contractors.
The proposed changes have received pushback from some members of Congress.
During a U.S. agriculture budget appropriation committee hearing Tuesday, Newhouse proposed an amendment to the 2020 agriculture budget that would block funds from being used to transfer operations from Department of Agriculture to the Department of Labor, as well as prevent their closure and alteration.
“If we close these facilities or move the others under the operation of the Department of Labor, we lose the Forest Service expertise and the wildfire suppression-based mission so vitally important to rural communities in my District and around the country – many of which are surrounded by vast national forests and have been inundated by large catastrophic wildfires in recent years,” Newhouse said in a press release.
Newhouse had previously criticized the changes to Job Corps programs in a joint statement with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican, in which they called the proposals a betrayal of the Trump administration’s commitment to rural communities.
His proposal comes after U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, announced Monday that he had secured President Trump’s agreement to keep the Anaconda Job Corps Center in Montana open, according to local news – one of the nine slated for closure.
A bipartisan letter to the U.S. departments of labor and forest services from members of Congress asking for explanations of how the decisions of cuts and transfers were made is expected in the coming days, according to Newhouse’s communications director, Elizabeth Daniels.
The federal program has provided hands-on training to at-risk youth 16 to 24 for more than half a century. The closures are expected in September.