Flatwoods Job Corps up for proposed closure; Va. leaders speak out

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UPDATE (5:30 p.m., May 31, 2019) – Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats from Virginia, along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA 9th District), have sent letters to President Trump’s administration in response to the proposed closure of the Flatwoods Jobs corps Civilian Center in Coeburn.

“Closing these facilities will negatively affect the communities they serve, most of which are low-income urban and rural areas,” they wrote.

You can read the full letter below.

ORIGINAL STORY: A Virginia job corps center previously managed by the USDA could soon be up for deactivation. 

The United States Department of Labor has accepted a letter from the USDA, saying the Forest Service will withdraw from operating Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (CCC).

The Labor Department announced the letter was accepted on Friday, May 24. 

According to a press release from Appalachian Voices, an environment organization based out of Boone, North Carolina, the Department of Labor published the notice for closures on Thursday in the Federal Register for nine CCCs, including Flatwoods Job Corps in Coeburn, Virginia.  

The organization said in the release this is believed to be the biggest federal employee layoff in a decade.  

The proposed closure for the CCCs will go through a formal comment period during the month of June. You can submit a comment about the proposal at this link.

According to the Labor Department, 16 CCCs, including one in Bristol, will also be under new management. 

Appalachian Voices also provided comments from several leaders and lawmakers from the region speaking out against the proposed closures. The comments are included below

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Adam Wells, Regional Director of Community and Economic Development, Appalachian Voices 

“The Trump administration is choosing to cut spending in communities where it is needed most, and shows they are totally disconnected with people in rural America. Rather than closing down these job centers, they should be doubling down on successful programs like the one at Flatwoods CCC in Coeburn, which recently wrapped up its first round of solar energy installation training. Instead, they are trying to pull the plug on a good, sustainable economic driver that has served our community for decades.” 

Tyler Hughes, Big Stone Gap Town Council member 

“It’s incredibly heartbreaking to hear that the Flatwoods Job Corps could be closed. They’ve been instrumental in maintaining the infrastructure needed for our new eco-tourism economy. The loss of the center will have a negative effect that will be felt by all of the communities in Wise County.” 

Taysha DeVaughan, President of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, and member of the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice 

“I find the proposed shutdown of the Flatwood Job Corps to be very disappointing. It impacts our community in Coeburn directly. This is a region that is already struggling economically compared to the rest of Virginia and this would be another financial blow to our communities in Wise County. Having a just transition from the decline of coal should include training for skilled type work or labor, and this high-performance center has been serving that exact type of training and job placement for almost a decade.”

Monty Salyer, Executive Director, Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority 

“I remember as a young boy, some 50 years ago, when the Flatwoods Job Corps came to Coeburn. The program was then and still is vital for so many young men and women without opportunity. In a time when we are expecting people to work for a fair wage, why would we kill a program that is designed to create working people, especially here in the coalfields of Virginia? As the director of the Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority, I have seen the overwhelming benefits of this program. Such a closing would have a ripple effect on so many businesses, individuals, and our communities in Wise County. This is a tragedy.”  

Jack Kennedy, Wise County Circuit Court Clerk and civic leader 

“The job losses, the services utilized and the contribution trainees make to the Jefferson National Forest and other community-related projects will likely not be replaced for at least a generation. Closure will be one more blow to outward migration of our workforce, more stress on local economic conditions and a reduction in the county tax base. It will ultimately be one more blow to the very heart of the central Appalachian mountain economy.” 

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To learn more about the CCC closures and proposed changes, visit the link below. 

U.S. Labor Department announces changes to USDA’s Job Corps centers

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