An article in yesterday's Maryland Weekly section stated incorrectly that CETA employes are not eligible for unemployment insurance. Although the federal government has decided not to fund unemployment benefits for CETA workers as of last December, Maryland CETA workers laid off through next September will be eligible for benefits because of the structure of the old program, according to a spokesperson for the Maryland Employment Security Administration.
Carol Allen says she is stunned by the speed with which the Reagan Administration has acted to balance the budget -- in part by eliminating the only job she has held in three years.
"He (President Reagan) just jumps in the White House and destroys people's lives -- it didn't even take him a month," said Allen, a clerk-typist employed under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, or CETA.
The administration has announced massive cuts in the program designed to train marginal workers for employment in the private sector and also to provide them with federally funded jobs as a means of gaining badly needed work experience. According to the Department of Labor, the slashes will affect 300,000 workers nationwide.
And although Congress must still approve the administration's budget plans, Montgomery County CETA head Alan Kutz has already notified 157 of the county's 500 CETA employes that they will be laid off by June. A total of 313 out of 691 workers in Prince George's County will be affected as well.
Half of the people who will lose jobs due to the cuts, like clerk-typist Allen, came to their jobs from the welfare rolls, according to estimates by Kutz and Prince George's County's Bill Singleton. Some of them will certainly return, the officials said.
Allen, a 23-year-old Langley Park resident, works in Kutz's office, for a $9,800 salary.
"She's been on for about three months, she's going to be off in two months. We (hope to) get her skills before it is over," said Kutz. "She is very smart, practices on her lunch hour, all the time. Her biggest fear is loss of dignity, having to go back on welfare. The money is about the same, but she then becomes totally dependent."
The employers of the CETA workers also will suffer. The cutback will have a severe impact on many nonprofit organizations in both counties where the workers perform needed social services.
James Randolph is a CETA employe who counsels released mental patients. His specialty is showing the patients, who not so long ago would have been "packed in the back wards of institutions until they died," the tools they need to get the job, said his supervisor, Ashutosh Vyas.
"Once he's gone no one else will pick up what he does," said Vyas, who says that the overall program has cut the rate of mental patients' return to institutions from 68 percent in the early 1970s to 5 percent today. Vyas said Family Services does not have the money to pay Randolph's salary.
"I think about it every day. I am searching for jobs for people and I have to get one myself," said Randolph, 30, who could not return to his former job as a District of Columbia youth counselor following a 1977 injury.
He had been taking a four-year electronics course, supported by workmen's compensation, but the Hillcrest Heights resident said that he had trouble making his child support, tuition and rent payments until he got his CETA job last January.
The CETA program began in 1973 under the Nixon administration to provide training for the so called "hard-core unemployable" sector of the labor force.The program also included some federally funded employment for those who had been unable to find work for 15 out of 20 weeks in a year and met other poverty criteria. This component, called Public Service Employment or PSE's was significantly expanded under the Carter Administration to cover a broad range of jobs. Most require low-skill levels in social services or clerical work and are limited to an 18-month period of employment.
It is the public service jobs that are scheduled for the budget ax. Funding for these accounts for about one-third of the CETA budgets in Montgomery and Prince Geoge's Counties. Summer Jobs for youth programs, also funded by CETA, are to be phased out in September. Funding for the training component of CETA, will continue but at reduced levels.
The overall budget for Montgomery County is expected to be cut from $5 million in fiscal 1981 to $2 million in 1982. Prince George's is expected to shrink from $9.9 million to $5 million, according to Joe Fagan, who is in charge of the program there.
Many counties and municipalities put large numbers of CETA workers on their own payrolls to maintain services in the face of tight budgets. Critics charged that the local governments were simply padding their payrolls with federal dollars while not preparing the workers for private sector employment.
In Prince George's and Montgomery, however, the bulk of these positions have been given to nonprofit organizations in the form of grants, to do work that supplements state and county social service programs.
Despite the criticism, all CETA workers interviewed said that the work experience was invaluable, and in some cases meant the difference between independence and dependence on welfare. Allen came to the Washington area from rural West Virginia in 1977, hoping to find a job in the printing trade she had studied for two years, but had no luck.
"The government wouldn't even accept an application from me," said the divorced mother of two. "They always said they were full. That wasn't what I had in mind when I came to the Big City. Everybody leaves their hometown with dreams of being a success."
After a brief stint on welfare, Allen found a secretarial job with a Rockville lobbying office which folded after a year. She sought her fortune in California for a year, living with relatives, but returned to Montgomery County in 1979. It was another year of welfare before she got her CETA job last January. In addition to her general office duties she takes a CETA-funded typing course two nights a week; her babysitting bill is $40 per week out of her $188 weekly salary.
"They were going to train me on the word processor machine in the spring, without even going to school for it," said Allen, who wanted the valuable skill. "Now, because Mr. Reagan I won't be able to see that word processor."
She vacillates between confidence and cynicism about her prospects for getting a job.
Kutz and Fagan, in Montgomery and Prince George's, have begun an all-out effort to help place those displaced by the cuts, but no one is making any promises. CETA workers do not have unemployment insurance.
"When we're out of work, we're out of money totally. Reagan is really pushing people out into the cold," said Allen, who said she learned a strong work ethic in the hills of West Virginia. "I don't think it's right. If I am willing to work I don't see why I should be forced back on it (welfare)."
Joan Livingston of Forrestville in Prince George's County said she had also seen enough of welfare. Before she got her CETA job last year -- coordinating the distribution of 1,500 lunches for needy children for the nonprofit United Communities Against Poverty -- she had been on public assistance for nine of her 30 years. Her five children, she said, have gotten used to the image of their mother as an independent breadwinner and she wants to keep it that way.
"They do not have the full awareness of me being on public assistance. Now the only (public assistance) they see coming in is food stamps and they know why it's there," said Livingston. "If all this is gone, there is no saying what it will do to them. I don't want them to have to deal with it."