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Labor IG: Job Corps maintenance failures threaten health, safety of staff, students

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More than half of maintenance problems that create potential health and safety hazards for Job Corps students and staff members went unrepaired for more than a year and an even greater number scheduled to be fixed weren't, according to an audit by the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor.

The DOL IG said 807 of 1,405 "critical maintenance deficiences involving life, safety and health issues" went unrepaired for more than a year, while 718 deficiences covered by $29.5 million in appropriated funds went unfixed for the same period of time.

The DOL IG also found that Job Corps managers "did not effectively manage maintenance funds and $32.9 million in unused funds were expired or approached expiration. This included $9.0 million in funds that expired and cannot be used to incur new obligations and $23.9 million, for which Job Corps could not provide the information needed to determine the expiration date."

The Job Corps program was created as part of President Johnson's War on Poverty in 1964 and is designed to provide employment training for at-risk youth. The program was budgeted for $1.7 billion by President Obama in his 2012 budget proposal.

The program frequently has been targeted for budget cuts or outright elimination over the years, but it survives while operating 125 centers serving approximately 60,000 trainees across the country.

In its 2012 budget requests, DOL planned to reduce spending on maintenance and repairs by $26.5 million to $78 million, claiming "this funding will be used to rehabilitate current facilities; modernize classroom and training buildings; repair and upgrade deficiencies; address life, safety, and health concerns; and complete emergency repairs."

The DOL IG audit concluded that the maintenance problems it identified continue to exist because Job Corps officials "because Job Corps did not have an effective process to ensure maintenance deficiencies were addressed appropriately and timely, and did not place sufficient emphasis on tracking and monitoring the status of obligated funds."

Go here to read the full DOL IG report on the Job Corps.

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