The Trump administration has folded under congressional pressure and backed off plans to scrap a Forest Service job training program that would have closed a Job Corps center in Cass in Franklin County.
The decision came after weeks of heavy pressure from lawmakers from Montana to Kentucky, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The Forest Service had planned to begin layoffs of 1,110 employees by September, believed to be the largest number of cuts to the federal workforce in a decade.
The offices of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, whose agencies oversee the 25 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers and dozens of others in urban areas, said in a joint statement that the administration is committed to making the program “better and stronger.”
Nine centers, including the one in Arkansas, would have been closed, with other work outsourced. Some 1,100 jobs were to be lost. As recently as Monday, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, in Little Rock in the company of Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, was touting the closures as a money-saving move in the face of uestioning from Rep. Sarah Capp of Ozark, who represents the area in the legislature.
At the congressional level, two members of Congress from Arkansas had joined the fight to save the centers — Rep. Bruce Westerman, who represents Franklin County, and Sen.John Boozman. They were the only Arkansans to sign a bipartisan letter supporting the training program for disadvantaged youths.
The Cass Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center sits north of the Mulberry River on Highway 23, familiarly known as the Pig Trail. Its training includes such trades as welding, carpentry, bricklaying, heavy equipment operation and culinary arts.