Trump administration backtracks, won't shut down rural jobs program after all
By Keya Vakil
June 20, 2019

After weeks of backlash from lawmakers, the Trump administration has reversed its earlier decision to shut down nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, including the Flatwoods Job Corps Center in Coeburn, Virginia.

The reversal will spare dozens of jobs in Coeburn and preserve the $6 million in economic activity that Flatwoods creates each year in the community.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture previously announced in May that the U.S. Forest Service would no longer operate Job Corps Civilian Conservation centers, which would have led to the layoff of 1,100 federal employees, including dozens in Coeburn.

Coeburn Mayor Jeff Kiser told the Coalfield Progress a shutdown would be “an economic blow to the community.”

Local, state and federal officials all criticized the decision and pressured the USDA and DOL to consider reversing their decision.

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia) sent a joint letter to the Trump administration expressing their concern. Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to prevent the Trump Administration from closing Flatwoods.

They weren’t alone in their opposition. Lawmakers around the country pushed back on the decision and on Wednesday, the USDA and DOL told the Bristol Herald Courier that the centers would remain open.

The Flatwoods center allows students to earn their high school diploma or GED while also learning specialized job skills such as carpentry, plumbing, or electrical. Students also regularly help local fire departments in fighting fires, provide free labor for community projects in the region, and assist the forest service with maintenance.

Sens. Warner and Kaine released a joint statement on Thursday, calling the reversal “welcome news” and saying they were “thrilled that Flatwoods will be able to keep expanding economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia.”

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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