Funding cuts mean summer work for teens will be scarce

By: Kendall Downing Email
By: Kendall Downing Email

The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program helps connect job seekers with open positions in 23 Appalachian counties. But a 25% cut in federal funding means an organization that helps put people to work is having to let some of its own go, while also making drastic cuts in services.

At Sportsworld in Hazard, the shirts are being printed and the racks are stocked.

"It was good for the kids, and it was good for us," said Derek Turner, assistant manager.

This time last year a group of teens was able to help out because they had jobs here organized by the Let's Go to Work program.

"This summer there are no kids working in summer employment," said Jeff Whitehead, Executive Director, of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.

Federal funding cuts just kept adding up.

"That equated to about two and a half million dollars," said Whitehead.

So that program among others got put on the chopping block, meaning about five thousand teenagers across Eastern Kentucky will not have those jobs.

Managers said the experience was great because it was nice to have workers able to stock shelves as the season changed, but they said it was about more than just having extra help.

"My employees and myself, we enjoyed it too. We got close, and actually we made friends because they come by and see us," said David Napier, of Sportsworld in Hazard.

"The opportunities for kids to work and experience the workplace, to get connected to responsible adults and mentors, you can't replace that," said Whitehead.

Whitehead said EKCEP will use this time to reorganize and find a way to continue putting people to work in the area.

"They taught us that they were good kids, and they just needed the opportunity," said Napier.

So in the future that experience will not pass anyone by.

EKCEP had to let six of its office staff go as well. Leaders said retaining adult job services is their highest priority.

There are three thousand adults across the region enrolled in their job placement and retraining services, and some of those services are in jeopardy.

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