The endangered branches of the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center (CCC) – including the one located in Pine Knot – will remain open, as announced Wednesday by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and U.S Representative Hal Rogers both applauded the decision. Both legislators have worked to prevent the closure of the McCreary County center after a May announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Labor (DOL) stated that nine centers across the country would be closed and a further 16 would be contracted out as part of a transfer of control from the USDA to the DOL.
Somerset's Congressman Rogers said he applauded the decision to reverse course.
"From day one, we never received a clear explanation for the abrupt decision to close the Pine Knot Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center. I've seen, first-hand, the value of these Job Corps CCC employees and the impact that these programs have on the at-risk youth they serve, not to mention, their important work to protect our national forests," said Congressman Rogers. "I applaud Sec. Perdue for reversing the decision and I look forward to working with this administration to find a sustainable path forward to improve operations and keep these centers open."
The initial decision to close or contract out facility operations would have impacted three Kentucky centers. Along with Pine Knot’s, a center in Frenchburg would have closed, and the Great Onyx CCC in Mammoth Cave would have been impacted.
Senator McConnell said he was personally informed by Perdue on Wednesday of the decision to keep the three Kentucky centers open.
“I’m grateful that President Trump and his administration have answered our calls to preserve the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in Kentucky,” said McConnell. “These centers provide critical educational and job-training services to at-risk youth in some of the Commonwealth’s most distressed communities, and I appreciate Secretary Perdue calling me today to inform me of the good news. I am pleased Secretaries [Alexander] Acosta and Perdue have agreed to stop the closure of these centers, and as Senate Majority Leader, I look forward to continuing to work with them to support rural development in Kentucky.”
McConnell’s office said that among the three counties, 100 youths are employed.
Across the country, the move would have meant around 1,100 layoffs, according to Rogers’ office.
Rogers had joined legislators across the country in supporting an amendment to the 2020 Agriculture House Appropriations Bill that would have prevented the USDA and DOL from spending any money for the transfer, effectively blocking it.
McConnell had contacted Acosta and Perdue directly, asking them to reconsider the closures.
Originally, the Department of Labor said the plan to transfer control and close certain centers "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."
However, it did nothing to address the impact that closing the Pine Knot center would have had on McCreary County's economy, the impact on those who would lose jobs, or the agencies and programs that would lose support from the center and its students.
The CCCs is a national program that has been in existence since 1964. It offers vocational training and educational assistance to low-income youths for free.