The House has again approved a youth jobs program endorsed by Gov. Butch Otter that provided work for 840 young people during the summer of 2009. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridan, came at the request of the Idaho Department of Labor (IDL), which asked lawmakers to tweak state law so it could legally receive donations from public and private entities to continue the program.
For 2010, the department is unsure if it will receive funding from the federal government to continue the program. Under the proposal, the department would be allowed to receive donations from all levels of government, as well as private businesses and non-profit entities.
The Senate, in considering the legislation, altered the bill to ensure that youth workers employed wouldn't receive additional benefits to which they aren't entitled. Hagedorn told IdahoReporter.com that the language inserted by senators prevents the youth from being eligible for health insurance, retirement, or other state-funded benefits.
In a short procedure, Hagedorn asked fellow House lawmakers to approve the changes made by the Senate, which they did without dissent. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Butch Otter.
The program, in its second year of operation last summer, received stimulus dollars that allowed the state, in cooperation with several federal agencies, to put young adults to work. The Idaho Job Corps (IJC), as its called, focused on at-risk or disadvantaged young people who faced certain “employment barriers” which prevented them from otherwise obtaining work. Most participants worked for minimum wage performing manual labor, though some worked at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls and others worked with non-profit child care provides to gain real-life work experience. The department reports that more than 250 different work sites benefited from the labor of the workers.
Dwight Johnson, representing the department at a previous hearing on the bill, told IdahoReporter.com that the program this summer will be funded with “ongoing resources” from within the department itself. He said, at the time, that if the proposal passes both bodies of the Legislature, the department will begin seeking funds from outside and private sources immediately. Last summer, IJC worked with the city of Meridian and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to provide labor for the program and, according to Johnson, the department is in talks with Meridian to continue on as a program sponsor. Johnson said he also expects the U.S. Forest Service to play an active role in this year’s program. Typically, the sponsoring entity, such as a city or federal department, pays the wages and/or provides equipment for workers.
Hagedorn’s son, John, participated in the program as a crew leader in 2009. During the initial floor debate on the legislation, Hagedorn sang praises of IJC, saying that he worked with IJC when it was pilot project in 2008 and that the workers had an “amazing turning point” happen for each of them during their time there. He said that he is enthusiastic about IJC’s ability to provide Idaho with more skilled labor than would otherwise be available.