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Job Corps Chief Oates Steps Down Amid Budget Woes

Image: Job Corps Chief Oates Steps Down Amid Budget Woes

Wednesday, 08 May 2013 03:16 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Top Labor Department official Jane Oates, who admits to budgeting issues and cost overruns while she oversaw the national Job Corps program, is stepping down from her post, but questions are still swirling about actions taken during her tenure, including the disbursement of nearly $1 billion in Recovery Act funds.

Oates, the assistant secretary of Labor's Employment and Training Division, told employees she was stepping down in an e-mail sent out on Monday, reports the Washington Post. The e-mail touted her accomplishments since she was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, but didn't mention her department's budget woes — or the problems incurred by some businesses that accepted the Recovery Act funding.

In addition to the Recovery Act funding, Oates said she is proud of creating a partnership between Job Corps, IBM, and Jamba Juice, as well as improving the relationships between home and regional offices.

But her legacy will likely be more about the Job Corps' budget problems, and the Recovery Act funding.

Job Corps is just coming off an enrollment freeze, enacted in January after it was determined that the program was running a $60 million deficit. The program lifted the stoppage in April, but will still reduce enrollment by 20 percent, reports the National Job Corps Association.

The freeze meant at least 10,000 people were not able to participate in Job Corps training, and 700 people lost their jobs at the nation's training centers.

In March, Oates acknowledged a lack of accounting expertise among senior staff contributed to the cost overruns, and several budgeting issues took place. The shortfall, she said, happened because of "inadequate staffing and monitoring on the part of the Job Corps program."

National Job Corps Association government-relations director Anand Vimalassery said his agency hopes for new Job Corps leadership that will "work more collaboratively with Job Corps stakeholders to ensure vulnerable young Americans are never again unnecessarily turned away from Job Corps."

Oates' resignation also comes after a federal clean energy program that was to have created numerous jobs but instead left a series of bankrupt "green" industry jobs bankrupt and did not deliver the jobs expected.

Last October, a Labor Department's internal audit found that the Obama administration's green jobs training program failed on most key job indicators, including training workers who had jobs that didn't require green energy skills.

Only about 38 percent of those who got training found jobs related to it, the Washington Times reported, and just 16 percent of those people kept their jobs for at least six months.

The government had earmarked more than $400 million for the programs, but the audit found that many of the workers who already had green-jobs were retrained, although they didn't need to be.

But Oates, at the time, challenged the findings, saying the auditors didn't consider the full progress of training and that trainees found jobs before their education was completed, so they weren't included in the tallies.

House Oversight Committee Chairman, Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the green jobs money "served as a slush fund" that allowed the Obama administration to make payments to allies like "like the National Council of La Raza, the Blue Green alliance, and the U.S. Steelworkers Union.'

Oates' resignation also comes while the fallout surrounding the failure of the solar panel firm Solyndra continues. Just over a a year ago, the company filed for bankruptcy, after accepting nearly $528 million in Department of Energy loans to build up the plant and create green energy jobs.

Republicans said instead of creating jobs, the loans led to bankruptcy and the loss of hundreds of jobs at the plant.

"People lost jobs and half a billion taxpayer dollars went to President Obama's campaign donors to serve the president's green energy pipe dream," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

The Labor Department and Oates came under fire for approving Trade Adjustment Assistance for Solyndra's former employees, after determining they lost their jobs because of foreign competition, reported investors.com. The $13,000 per head packages added up to another $14.3 million the government absorbed, on top of the loan money lost when the company filed bankruptcy.



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