LONGMONT -- The Workforce centers around the state, including Workforce Boulder County, were hoping the sequester wouldn't happen but had planned for it just in case.

The centers, which are on a July 1 to June 30 calendar, held money in reserve when planning their fiscal 2013 budgets, and those reserves will minimize the immediate effect of the sequester, according to Workforce Boulder County executive director Tom Miller.

"We have kept aside nearly 9 percent (of a $5.3 million budget) in case we have to pay this sequestration back retroactively," Miller said.

As of Friday, that's what Workforce will have to do: mail back a check for $462,000 to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, which will return the money to the federal government.

Jeanette Johnson of Longmont participates in a resume writing class Wednesday at Workforce Boulder County in Longmont. Executive director Tom Miller is
Jeanette Johnson of Longmont participates in a resume writing class Wednesday at Workforce Boulder County in Longmont. Executive director Tom Miller is concerned about the sequester's effect on training dollars for the agency. (Lewis Geyer/Times-Call)

Better to set the money aside, Miller said, than not to plan for the sequester and then face a dramatic cutback in funding about halfway through its fiscal year.

"I don't see any major changes in the service level or the staffing level the rest of this year," Miller said. Instead, it's fiscal 2014, which starts July 1, that he's concerned about. "The concern that we have is they don't relook at this after it's been done."

If nothing has been done to restore the funding, as of July 1, not only will Workforce have lost the reserves it kept in store this fiscal year -- it would have had three years to spend that money, Miller said -- but it also faces an additional 10 percent cut in the new fiscal year.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is the primary source of funding for the nearly 60 state- and county-run Workforce centers throughout Colorado. (Some have slightly different names but all provide basically the same functions.) While the CDLE is in charge of disbursement, those monies are federal dollars that are taking a direct hit from the sequester.

Training classes at Workforce Boulder County, such as the one attended by Ade Lau of Johnstown this week, could be affected by the sequester, according to
Training classes at Workforce Boulder County, such as the one attended by Ade Lau of Johnstown this week, could be affected by the sequester, according to executive director Tom Miller. (Lewis Geyer/Times-Call)

Training and job search assistance will take the biggest hit, according to the CDLE. According to data compiled by Cher Haavind, the CDLE's director of communications, 10 percent fewer people will have access to training through the federal Employment and Training Grant known as the Workforce Investment Act. Last year, 9,579 adults and low-income youths in Colorado received this training.

Basic job search assistance funds would also be reduced by about 10 percent. Last year 500,000 Coloradans, including veterans, received job search assistance.

The CDLE said that staffing cuts could be a possibility, meaning less one-on-one job counseling and case management.

Miller said cutting staff at Workforce Boulder County would be his last resort, and his agency will be looking at pursuing grants and other ways to shore up its budget and minimize any drop in services.

While Workforce centers are the gateway for unemployment insurance, that program is overseen by the CDLE. Benefits for the long-term unemployed will be particularly affected by sequestration, according to the agency.

Haavind wrote in an email that federal extended benefits, called Emergency Unemployment Compensation, will be reduced by 11 percent -- a reduction of $55 million a year in Colorado.

As of Feb. 3, 23,154 people in the state had filed a recent EUC claim, Haavind said.

What is not known at this time, she added, is whether the long-term unemployed will receive the same benefits as now but for fewer weeks, or whether their benefit payments will be smaller, or whether it'll be a combination of the two.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-684-5291 or at tkindelspire@times-call.com.