Montana’s U.S. Congressmen are moving quickly to try and reverse the planned closure of the Anaconda Job Corps Center. Having been under the control of the USDA since its inception in 1966, authority over the Job Corps was recently transferred to the Department of Labor. According to a report in the Montana Standard (May 25), the Department of Labor reviewed the performance of the nation’s 25 Job Corps Centers and decided to close nine of them. Anaconda Job Corps is one of those nine and slated for closure in August. Operation of the remaining 16 centers, including Trapper Creek Job Corps Center south of Darby, would be through private contracting or partnerships.
Senator Steve Daines and Representative Greg Gianforte sent a joint letter to the DOL expressing their concerns over the closure. They urged the DOL to keep the Anaconda center running “or provide a suitable and equivalent alternative.”
Senator Jon Tester also wrote both the Department of Labor and the USDA, expressing his strong objection and calling the plans “irresponsible.”
Daines said in an interview on Montana Public Radio on Tuesday, May 28, “There’s not a good rationale. Sometimes they use that D.C. mentality that forgets about what it’s like to be in more of a rural state like Montana, and they’re being penny wise but pound foolish.”
He said the closure of the center would be “devastating to the local economy.”
“We’re just now starting to come out of some tough times in Anaconda, where real estate values are finally starting to come up a little bit,” Daines said. “There’s never a good time to get this news, this is a horrible time to get this news, and so we’re going to do everything we can to reverse this decision.”
On Thursday, Tester announced that he was introducing a bill to prevent the closure or transfer of the Anaconda and Trapper Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers.
“This reckless, gutless decision to close and undermine Montana’s Job Corps programs is dangerous to our state and our rural economy,” Tester said. “That is why we have to act, and I urge folks on both sides of the aisle to get behind my bill to save the Anaconda and Trapper Creek Job Corps from the chopping block.”
Tester sponsored a telephone conference with Montana newspapers at which he introduced Mike Robbins, a Butte native and co-owner of Montana Precision Products which has hired many Job Corps graduates over the years.
Robbins said, “We can’t allow these critical programs to be shut down, privatized, or repurposed. Our young people, our businesses, and our country have too much to lose.”
Tester’s bill will block the Trump Administration from using government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps in the United States. The bill would also prohibit any federal government agency from making changes to agreements that operate Job Corps facilities—preventing them from being privatized.