Focus: HOPE Suspends Classes, Lays Off Employees Due To Federal Funding Cuts

11/22/2011 03:31 pm ET

Focus: HOPE, a 43-year-old Detroit non-profit that offers workplace development and community programs, has been forced to suspend four training programs due to federal funding cuts.

The suspension will cancel classes for 225 machining, information technology and "Fast Track" math and reading students, as well as force layoffs for 70 Focus: HOPE employees next week. Additionally, a program for college engineering students may be suspended in December.

Focus: HOPE receives the majority of its funding for these programs through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which provided $5.86 million in funding for the previous fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. The programs enroll 1,200 Detroit and suburban students annually.

CEO William Jones Jr. said that while the organization had budgeted for a 10 to 20 percent decrease in WIA funding for the current fiscal year, he is now uncertain if it will receive any of the expected funding that is instrumental for running workforce training programs.

Other Focus: HOPE programs will continue, including a GED prep class, a job readiness and placement program called "Earn and Learn," a supplemental food program and HOPE Village, a community development initiative.

While the federal funding cuts are debilitating, Jones noted FOCUS Hope has a lot of other supporters. In addition to federal money, the organization receives funding from foundations, individuals and corporations.

"We're working our butts off to secure the necessary funding," Jones said. "We're going to be working very closely with the folks in Lansing as well as elsewhere."

Jones said Focus: HOPE is suspending, rather than canceling, the classes so that they can be brought back as soon as money is available.

The 70 layoffs, affecting employees directly and indirectly involved with the Focus: HOPE workplace training programs, will be carried out "as reasonably and responsibly as we can, recognizing we have to take fairly significant steps," Jones said.

"Whats unfortunate is that workforce investment development and training is being cut at a time when we can surely use it," he added.

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