New Mexico gets funding to help job transitions

Staff and wire reports

The U.S. Department of Labor has decided to award the state $1 million in job transition funds since it could be affected by the Pentagon’s plans to close Cannon Air Force Base and transfer jobs from White Sands Missile Range.

The funds would be used in eastern New Mexico to support dislocated workers who have lost their job or changed jobs as a result of a possible base closure. Lee Tillman, director of the Eastern Plains Council of Governments, said the funds are provided under the Workforce Investment Act specifically for dislocated workers.

“Even though the specific scope of work has not been finalized, some of the funding will be used for a workforce plan, development of a plan to deal with dislocation, and to deal with impact caused simply by the announcement,” Tillman said, noting that construction projects have slowed in the area. “Services would possibly include retraining, additional job search, supportive services during a transition, during training to learn a new skill.”

The Department of Labor will issue almost $50 million to states to begin planning for possible civilian jobs losses that result from the Base Realignment and Closure process.

The state’s congressional delegation said New Mexico workers, businesses and communities will still have access to the Labor Department funds even if Cannon does not shut down and the missile range doesn’t lose jobs.

“This funding is welcoming news,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M. “But we should not view these funds as a sign of conceding the fight.”

Udall and other members of the state’s delegation said they will continue to work together in an effort to have Cannon removed from the closure list and make sure that New Mexico bases are treated fairly.

Tillman said any worker who has been laid off as a result of Cannon being announced on the closure list should contact the workforce training center in Clovis and register as a dislocated worker.