The Truth 

Millions of dollars in state and federal retraining money that was supposed to be funneled to Elkhart County to help displaced RV workers is not getting to the people who need it.

According to The Truth's reporting partners at WNDU-TV, only 30 percent of the money has been committed and less than 1,000 of the more than 15,000 unemployed people in the county have been placed in a retraining program:

That's unacceptable.

State officials attribute the low number to several factors, including the grant requirements and Ivy Tech having problems keeping up with the demand.

When Gov. Mitch Daniels announced the initial grant program at Ivy Tech in Elkhart in August, he and other officials touted the community college's ability to meet the challenge and quickly develop programs for the workers.

Why can't Ivy Tech keep up? There are a number of regional campuses that can accommodate retraining classes, including Elkhart, and the community college prides itself on responding to business needs. WNDU's story cited a two-month wait for the advanced manufacturing program at the Warsaw campus of Ivy Tech. If it can't cut it, then the state should open up retraining opportunities to other local institutions.

Grant requirements themselves are a sticky matter. Criminals backgrounds, the lack of a GED and other issues affect eligibility and may mean that a segment of the unemployed may never be able to tap into the retraining resources. What happens to those people?

Another concern about the retraining grants is that they are restricted to unemployed RV workers. While they make up a significant portion of the unemployed in the county, as the number grows, so do the industries from which they come -- trailer manufacturers and mobile homes, for example. What about those workers? They need assistance as well and are no less deserving of the state's help.

When Daniels was touring Elkhart's WorkOne office recently, he picked up on the fact that there weren't very many people in the retraining program, asking "What do we do to turn that one thousand to two, three, four (and) five thousand," WNDU quoted him.

Now the state and Ivy Tech need to figure out the answer to his question and those of the thousands of laid-off workers trying unsuccessfully to get into the program.

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