Senator Mitch McConnell is weighing in on the proposal that would shutter nine Job Corps Civilian Conservations Centers (CCC), including the one in Pine Knot.
McConnell issued a statement Thursday, saying that he had contacted U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and asked them to reconsider the proposed closures, which would also affect the one in Frenchburg, located in Menifee County.
The closures are part of a plan in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would transfer operation of CCC to the Department of Labor (DOL).
McConnell's statement said that move could also negatively impact employees and operations at the Great Onyx CCC in Mammoth Cave.
The three facilities employ more than 100 workers total, he said.
"DOL's Job Corps program plays an important role in educating and training our nation's disadvantaged youth. This is especially true in rural and economically depressed areas throughout the nation, including areas of Kentucky served by these CCCs," said Senator McConnell. "These distressed Kentucky counties, with unemployment rates above the national average, need more support, not less. I strongly urged Secretaries Acosta and Perdue to reconsider their planned closures and to work with me to encourage economic growth and job creation in Edmonson, Menifee and McCreary counties."
McConnell's statement also quoted McCreary County's former vice president of CCCs and past president of the National Forest Service Council, Larry King.
King said, "From all the employees, students, and communities who benefit from Kentucky's CCC's, I'm so thankful for Senator McConnell's support of our program. Over the years, Senator McConnell has demonstrated his leadership for Kentucky workers and families countless times, and we are so grateful to have him as our voice in Washington."
The DOL announced the plan to take over operation of the program on May 24, saying, "This action creates an opportunity to serve a greater number of students at higher performing centers at a lower cost to taxpayers by modernizing and reforming part of the Job Corps program."
In addition to closing the centers in Pine Knot and Frenchburg, the center in Mammoth Cave was listed as one that would continue, but under a "new contract operator or partnership," meaning the center could be transferred into private hands.
The DOL statement said that it would increase student access to Job Corps centers "with the highest sustained student performance outcomes."
It added, "The Department will continue to ensure student access to the program through a commitment to maintain at least one Job Corps center in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico."