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Workforce Development Cuts in Lee County

One southeast Iowa lawmaker does not believe the state legislature will be able to stop a reduction in local workforce development services.

Iowa Workforce Development is laying off 30 employees, including two from Region 16, which includes Des Moines and Lee Counties.

Spokeswoman Kerry Koonce says many are management-level positions from the Des Moines office.

The agency is also cutting the days of operation for two satellite offices, including the Fort Madison location, which will go from five-days per week to two days in mid-August.

Koonce says the moves are in response to federal budget cuts, which she says makes up a majority of the agency's spending plan.

She says IWD could have closed a satellite office, per the authority of the Iowa Legislature, but instead, the agency chose to reduce the days of operation at the two locations.

State Representative Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk) says this is bad news for local workers and employers.

He says the state has the money to keep the offices open and the workers employed.

That has him questioning whether the administration would go along with back-filling the budget if the Iowa Legislature moved in that direction.

"Frankly, we did that when the office closed in Keokuk," says Rep. Kearns.  "The legislature approved, in a bi-partisan manner, money for the entire year, which would have taken us through this past year.  However, the Governor (Terry Branstad) chose not to use it."

Rep. Kearns expects lawmakers to discuss the additional IWD cuts when they return to Des Moines, though he does not know if specific hearings will be called.

He says he is worried the next step will be to completely eliminate IWD services in Lee County.

The county’s unemployment rate for June was the highest in the state at 7.2%.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.