Workforce center funding heading toward compromise in Congress

Reporter Editor

They’ve helped hundreds of Rockdale area residents find jobs and now they’ll have to sweat out some maneuvering at the highest levels of the federal government to see if they still have their own.

Rockdale’s Workforce Solutions of Central Texas—called the “best rural workforce operations in Texas” by its regional director— got a reprieve of sorts last weekend when the U. S. Senate okayed a spending bill with $6.5 billion in budget cuts.

That’s about one-tenth the $65 billion in cuts approved by the House of Representatives in its bill which cleared that chamber two weeks ago.

If that bill becomes law, work- force centers in Rockdale, Cameron, Temple and Lampasas wouldn’t close.

“We would not have to close Rockdale (and the other centers) under the bill passed by the Senate,” regional director Susan Kamas told The Reporter this week. “But nobody really expects that bill to become law.”

COMPROMISE—The House and Senate must iron out their differences in a compromise committee and that won’t be easy.

Driving the budget cutting debate is the new makeup of the House, where Republicans took control of the chamber by gaining 63 seats last November and pledging to slash federal spending.

“They (House and Senate) are still very far apart,” Kamas said.

The two chambers are working against a March 18 deadline date to pass a budget covering the remainder of 2011.

ACCOUNTABILITY—Also last week the federal General Accountabilit y Of f ice (GAO) released a far-reaching report finding duplicate services with “overlapping and fragmentation” in federal programs.

Budget cutters seized upon the report as evidence of the need to trim federal services.

Under job training and employment, the GAO report found nine federal agencies offered 47 programs, with 44 of them overlapping at least one other program.

But not Workforce Solutions, according to Kamas.

“ Texas tackled that problem (overlapping and duplicate services) in 1995,” Kamas said. “We do not duplicate the services of another program.”

“In fact, Texas, Florida and Utah are the states which have become models for avoiding duplication and overlapping,” she said. “We’d like to see the federal government focus on those states as a model for the nation.”

WAITING GAME—Meanwhile, it’s business as usual at Rockdale’s Workforce Solutions office.

In 2010, the local office served 36,919 persons, about seven times the population of Rockdale.

“I believe Rockdale has the best staff for bringing together job seekers and employers,” Kamas said.

Nine person are employed at the local center.

Kamas said if the Rockdale (and Cameron) centers close, patrons will have to drive more than an hour to obtain the same services now offered locally.

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