News Column

Job Front: Federal Sequester Raises Doubts on Training Funds

March 11, 2013

Darrell Smith

The effects of the sequester's automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal spending are looming over state and Sacramento-area unemployment assistance and job training programs.

But what the cuts could mean, or whether the ax falls at all, depends on the provider.

Potential cuts are already weighing on the state's Employment Development Department.

"It's something we're not happy about," said Loree Levy, an EDD spokeswoman.

EDD officials are still waiting for word from the Department of Labor on what might happen, but Levy said her agency's customers could face cuts to federal extensions of unemployment insurance after March 31, as well as funding for job search assistance and administrative functions.

Sequestration cuts would mean a nearly 11 percent reduction in weekly federal extensions -- anywhere from $30 to more than $45 per week for the 450,000 recipients collecting extension benefits -- after the end of the month, she said.

Average weekly extension payments range from $300 to more than $450, she said.

Meanwhile, money that would go to replace workers and pay for overtime as well as staff to help unemployed workers file for benefits, respond to questions and determine eligibility for benefits could also go away.

Levy said they amount to about $13 million in cuts for the current fiscal year, with a reduction of $50 million over the next 15 months.

"Sequestration is a game-changer that will make it difficult for customers," Levy said.

In the meantime, the EDD is giving its customers updates on the sequester through its website, www.edd.ca.gov, as well as Facebook posts and Twitter. It asks clients to use self-help tools on its website.

At the Center for Employment Training, the vocational school at Sacramento's Depot Park, the center's director, Rachel Wickland, said her site expects to come away mostly unscathed.

Many of her students rely on federal Pell Grants, which, she said, are exempted from the sequester.

Loan fees could rise for some, but "nothing's happening to Pell Grants. We're very happy," Wickland said, adding that cuts to Pell Grant funding "would've been devastating" to Depot Park students.

Tanya Provencher, executive director of Yolo County's Workforce Investment Board, like many of her counterparts, is unsure what the future holds for her county's federally funded jobs programs.

Programs could be affected, Provencher said, but "there's still a lot of gray areas because we don't have a lot of exacts."

That same uncertainty prevails in Sacramento County at Sacramento Employment and Training Agency.

SETA officials are watching Washington for word and waiting to make plans for the fiscal year.

"We're trying to plan, but it's hard to say," said SETA spokeswoman Terri Carpenter. "We're waiting to plan. We're on hold. Everybody's in that same mode."

Job coach available

People looking for jobs can talk one-on-one with a job coach March 23 at the Orangevale branch of Sacramento Public Library, 8820 Greenback Lane, Suite L.

The coach is in at 11 a.m. to offer job-hunting advice.

For more information, visit www.saclibrary.org or call the Sacramento Public Library at (916) 264-2920.



Source: (c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.