Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Congress Kills Obama's Jobs Plan for Space Coast

Shortly after his visit to Kennedy Space Center in April 2010, President Obama directed the creation of a Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development. Its objective was to create "an interagency action plan to facilitate economic development strategies and plans along the Space Coast and to provide training and other opportunities for affected aerospace workers so they are equipped to contribute to new developments in America's space program and related industries."

The report was issued on August 15, 2010. The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) issued a request for applications from entities interested in funding to create jobs in the Space Coast.

Nothing has been heard since then. I asked around and was told the $40 million was held up by Congress as it dawdled halfway through the federal 2011 fiscal year, which had a budget but no funding. As you probably know, Congress issued a series of continuing resolutions that continued funding for existing programs.

Last week, I e-mailed a representative of the EDA to check the program's status. He replied:

The Space Coast RIC grant competition is on hold until an official determination has been made regarding funding by Congress, and the Atlanta Regional Office has been notified by Washington. At that point EDA will be contacting all of the applicants to provide an update.

Florida Today now reports that "Congress cut the agency's budget in mid-April for the rest of fiscal 2011."

Obama had proposed $35 million in Commerce Department grants to spur creation of high-paying jobs in fields such as aeronautics and medical research, to replace some of the thousands of lost shuttle jobs. Commerce officials had reviewed grant applications and were prepared to act on them months ago.

Obama also proposed giving the Federal Aviation Administration $5 million to develop regulations for commercial spaceflight at Kennedy Space Center, another source of regional jobs ...

The administration has taken several other steps to help shuttle contractors find new jobs. Brevard Workforce, a private employment agency, got $15 million in an emergency grant for this year and next year for training and job-finding assistance (the services are outlined at www.launchnewcareers.com).

"We could not have done this without the national emergency grant behind us.” said Lisa Rice, president of Brevard Workforce. She said 4,100 resumes were posted on a state job-hunting website.

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