Cantwell, Bipartisan Senate Colleagues Team Up to Protect Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers from Closure

Bipartisan bill will block Trump administration from removing funds from successful job training programs; Civilian Conservation Centers offer critical wildfire and natural disaster response support throughout the West

Washington, D.C. – Teaming up to protect the country’s Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (CCCs) from closure, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Boozman (R-AK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced legislation today to prevent the removal of funds from these critical employment programs. 

The Trump administration announced last month that it intends to close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers throughout the country as well as a plan to effectively privatize the program by transferring 16 Job Corps centers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). 

This plan would impact Washington state’s three CCCs. The Fort Simcoe Center on the Yakama Reservation is slated for closure; the Columbia Basin Job Corp Center in Moses Lake and the Curlew Job Corp Center in Curlew will be transferred to the U.S. Department of Labor. Altogether, these CCCs employ more than 130 staff. In 2018, 658 students from these three Washington centers provided 119,539 hours of fire support. 

“Closing the Fort Simcoe Civilian Conservation Center near Yakima and privatizing others is unacceptable. As we battle massive wildfires across Washington state, these centers play a key role in training wildfire fighters and protecting our public lands. We need more programs training Americans in rural areas for 21st century jobs, not less,” said Cantwell. 

The Job Corps Protection Act blocks the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States. The bill will also prohibit USDA and DOL from making changes to agreements that operate Job Corps facilities—protecting them from privatization. 

Also today, Cantwell joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of senators and representatives in sending a letter pushing the USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to shut down Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers and end the program in its current form. 

“After a difficult year of natural disasters and with hurricane and wildfire season quickly approaching, now is precisely the wrong time to be reducing capacity at CCCs,” the members of Congress wrote to USDA and DOL Secretaries Perdue and Acosta. “These centers not only help support these underserved youth and young adults with invaluable job training, but they also provide essential capacity for the U.S. Forest Service to fulfill its mission and provide economic opportunities in rural areas.” 

Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers are located in numerous states across the country. People ages 16-24 are eligible to voluntarily enroll in Job Corps for hands-on job training. Throughout the West, CCCs offer critical wildfire and natural disaster response support. In addition, many businesses partner with local Job Corps to meet their need for high-skilled labor. 

Last year, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation that invested $1.7 billion in Job Corps programs across the country.