The D.C. government is considering a lawsuit to try to block the Reagan administration's announced cuts in the Comprehensive Employment and Training ACT (CETA) program, which will mean the loss of more than 1,000 jobs in the District government and in local nonprofit organizations. Most of the affected workers have already received two-week layoff notices.
The city released a letter from Mayor Marion Barry to U.S. Secretary of Labor Raymond J. Donavan yesterday in which Barry charged that the way in which the CETA cuts were ordered does not appear to meet the requirements of federal law.
Barry also alleged that the District is being forced to bear an unreasonable burden in the cuts. The District's budget for the public service CETA jobs in the current fiscal year is being cut by more than 50 percent, Barry wrote, while Philadelphia, for example, is being cut by only 6 percent and Baltimore by only 11 percent.
Ivanhoe Donaldson, acting director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, said yesterday that a lawsuit to try to block the cuts "is under consideration."
Barry's letter contained an analysis of the CETA cuts that was prepared by Corporation Counsel Judith W. Rogers and argued that President Reagan has not followed provisions of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.
The letter states that the act requires the president "to estimate fiscal, economic and budgetary effects" of a recision of funds, such as his proposed recision of CETA monies.
Instead, the letter states, the document sent by Reagan to Congress contains "only a two-sentence explanation" stating that the program would be cut and that all CETA workers in the affected programs would have to be gone by Oct. 1. [Most city workers are threatened with jobs loss before that date because the city has already spent much of its annual CETA allotment.]
"We don't believe that this is the kind of fiscal, economic and budgetary data the Congress envisioned in enacting the Impoundment Control Act," Barry states in his letter to Donovan.
The letter also contends that the Reagan administration failed to provide Congress with the required information concerning the legal authority to impose the cuts.
In addition, the letter questions the legality of a series of telegrams sent by fiscal officials to the city ordering the cuts.
Donaldson told the City Council yesterday that Congress has until April 23 to act on Reagan's request to rescind CETA funds that now go to pay for nearly half the affected local workers.
The city sent notices to those workers recently telling them they would soon lose their jobs, Donaldson said, but it is now sending out new notices informing them that they might be able to remain employed until April 23.
Rogers said members of her staff have spoken to officials in other cities, who have voiced some of the same concerns mentioned in the letter. She said that while "everybody's focusing on" the problem of CETA cuts, she knows of no lawsuits that have been filed.
A number of nonprofit community groups both locally and nationwide who use CETA workers, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus and other big-city mayors, have publicly raised the question of legal action to try to halt the cuts.
"I think that what we're saying now is that we need some clarification," Rogers said of the leter. "Then we will know what further steps to take."