Stimulus funds give boost to job training programs

"Where did the stimulus money go?"

That's been a common question among Americans, who hear and read frequently about the bailouts and loans received by Wall Street firms, banks and auto manufacturers, not to mention executive bonuses. But many wonder if any funding has helped the average unemployed Joe on Main Street.

The nearly $800 billion that Congress approved in February in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been funneled through various channels, from tax cuts to extended jobless benefits to infrastructure improvements. But if there's one place the stimulus money's impact is seen, it's in the job-training sector.

Through the spring and summer, local organizations like the Full Employment Council on the Missouri side and the Workforce Partnership on the Kansas side have helped thousands of area residents receive training, as well as employment opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist.

And though the funding was a one-time allotment, job-training experts believe long term benefits will be realized as the economy bounces back and more employers have a pool of qualified and trained workers from which to hire.

For Clyde McQueen, chief executive of the Full Employment Council, the stimulus funding was a godsend. McQueen has been in the job-placement business a long time, as far back as the early 1980s — the last time the nation's unemployment rate hovered around 10 percent.

McQueen's experience and knowledge even took him to Capitol Hill this past summer as he urged a Senate committee to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, a national job-training program that continues to receive some funding annually without a new bill being passed.

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But McQueen, who has headed the Kansas City-based organization for more than 20 years, said the scope of the people laid off in this downturn has been unprecedented in his professional lifetime.

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