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Illinois lawmakers OK additional money for job training

Job training funds approved

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Illinois lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill that would infuse $5.7 million into underfunded job training programs.

“The additional funding will be used to meet previous commitments made to companies as part of their incentive packages to train their workers,” Marcelyn Love, a spokeswoman for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, wrote in an email.

Last year, legislators reprimanded the agency for lack of accountability and moved control of its $6.75 million in training funds to five private entities.

That move, left the Department of Commerce unable to honor its commitments to 54 companies through its program to retain and attract manufacturers to the state.

Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, chairman of the Appropriations-General Services Committee, said legislators were surprised to learn that the department of commerce promised money it did not have, putting extra pressure on lawmakers to fund those obligations.

”It is hard to accept that any agency would put in contracts before the money is appropriated,” Crespo said, adding that he urged the agency to end those practices.

Legislators have criticized the department for its lack of monitoringof the Employer Training Investment Program, or ETIP, which pays for up to 50 percent of training costs. For example, the employment status and pay of workers who have been trained is not tracked.

Crespo, the chairman of the Appropriations-General Services Committee, said before granting additional resources in fiscal 2014 he wants to review how the money has been managed, including by the five entities that received funding for fiscal 2013.

“These are tax dollars. Everyone in the state of Illinois has a stake in this thing,” Crespo said.

In fiscal 2012, about $11 million was allocated to ETIP through the Commerce Department. From 2009 to 2012, ETIP has trained 180,178 workers across 5,734 companies, according to the Commerce Department. Past recipients have included Chrysler Group ($875,000), Navistar International Corp. ($750,000) and Ford Motor Co. ($2.95 million).Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the bill, which also includes additional funding for the Department of Children and Family Services.

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