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Michigan Works! to close?

Job training offices would close under House plan

March 7, 2011
Daily Press

LANSING (AP) - The millions of people who show up at their local Michigan Works! office to look for jobs online or get help with their resumes or job training could find the offices shuttered unless a compromise is worked out by Congress on federal workforce funds.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. House passed a bill cutting more than $3.6 billion from the Workforce Investment Act, which accounts for nearly $5.5 million in funding for the Michigan agency. The U.S. Senate hasn't approved the cut, but state officials say they're not in the clear yet.

"What they've done is effectively eliminated the national workforce system," Michigan Works! Association CEO Luann Dunsford said Friday of the House cut.

If the Senate goes along, "it would effectively unravel our system. Centers would be closed," she said.

About 700 to 800 state residents that have been laid off are getting two years of college or trade-school training through Michigan Works!. About two-thirds of the organization's budget pays for those classes, Livingston County Michigan Works! Director Bill Sleight told the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Dunsford said workforce agencies across the country are trying to get the House to reconsider.

"We are really trying to raise our voice so that not only can House members come back to a more reasonable place, but also so the Senate can hold the hard line and say, 'This is not the time, in the midst of trying to recover from an economic disaster such as we're in, to eliminate the system that's a lifeline for so many people trying to reinvent their careers,'" she said.

About 1,000 people a day use the Lansing Michigan Works! center and about 3.5 million people turn to the centers statewide over the course of a year, Dunsford said. Concern over the centers' potential closing reaches from southern Michigan to the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, where jobless rates are even higher.

Dunsford hopes the Senate will stick with President Barack Obama's proposed funding plan, which makes only minor cuts in federal funding for workforce development.

At the moment, funding is "very, very uncertain," she said. With Michigan's unemployment rate still hovering above 11 percent, "this is not the time to eliminate the national workforce system," Dunsford said. "Where would the people go?"



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