In the first wave of the Reagan administration budget cuts, 1,086 federally paid workers employed by the District government and dozens of Washington community groups have been sent notices that they will be left without public service jobs in two weeks.
Those jobs, funded under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), are part of about 2,000 public service jobs that will be eliminated throughout the Washington area, according to Robert Kenyon, deputy regional director for the U.S. Labor Department.
While some suburban jurisdictions have enough CETA money left to pay their federally funded public service workers at least through the summer, the District government, which is grappling with a severe cash shortage and a worsening budget deficit, has told its CETA workers they will be removed from the federal payroll by the end of next week.
The CETA jobs cuts in the District will curtail numerous city services, such as playground supervision, parking enforcement and compilation of vital records in several agencies. In addition, many community services -- including the Women's Legal Defense Fund, the Washington Area Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and the D.C. Coalition for Youth -- will be forced to operate with sharply reduced staffs. Other community services provided by such private agencies could be eliminated.
The termination notices were the first visible impact of Reagan's national drive to reduce federal spending, and it foreshadows even more severe cuts ahead. Ivanhoe Donaldson, acting director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, told a congressional panel yesterday that Reagan plans to slash $19 million from the $54 million in federal aid the city expected to receive next year for its employment and job training program, a move Donaldson said could trigger serious social unrest.
The 1,086 CETA workers who will lose their jobs in two weeks had originally been guaranteed work through September. But President Reagan ended the public service jobs program early and the District simply has no money of its own to pay the workers beyond next week, officials explained.
In an effort to avert some of the impact, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry has issued an executive order lifting the city's current hiring freeze for agencies with job openings that want to hire their CETA workers with city funds, Employment Services spokesman Adolph Slaughter said.
In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, CETA workers have been put on notice that they are working on borrowed time, with no jobs guaranteed past June. Throughout the entire metropolitan area, governments have launched all-out, but belated efforts to find private sector jobs for CETA workers.
Public service workers have also become a fixture for the region's myriad of nonprofit public interest groups, which burgeoned during the 1960s and early 1970s, offering services ranging from counseling for alcoholics to providing legal aid to the poor and offering bilingual assistance to those who don't speak English.
In the District, the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse group held a morning press conference to announce that it would lost 21 telephone operators from its 24-hour hotline service.
The story was the same throughout the city and the area. AYUDA in the District, which provides legal aid to Hispanics, stands to lose five CETA workers. The Capital Children's Museum will lose three. And in Prince George's County, the Spanish Speaking Community of Maryland Inc., which provides a range of bilingual counseling on housing, employment and immigration, could lose as many as a half dozen CETA employes by summer.
"The basic idea behind improving public services makes sense," said Marlene Sokol, a housing counselor with the Spanish Speaking Community group. "But just when you're actually serving the public and doing some good, they cut it off. It destroys all the work you've done so far."
Donaldson testified on his department's expected cuts in federal support at a hearing before the House D.C. Appropriations subcommittee on the city budget for the 1982 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Unlike most District agencies, the Department of Employment Services receives most of its support from federal grants. Only $14.5 million of its anticipated $69 million budget was expected to come from local taxes. The estimated $19 million cut in federal funds would reduce the total budget to $50 million.
Some of the expected budget cuts also will affect city job training and unemployment compensation programs, and may require reduction of the D.C. agency's administrative staff, Donaldson testified.
Word of the anticipated cuts come following a recent announcement that joblessness in the District in January reached 8.1 percent of the work force, the highest level since mid-1979.
Donaldson voiced fear that employers in Washington, with its orientation toward white-collar jobs for well-educated persons, will not hire the semiskilled workers who lose their CETA jobs.