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Cuts could cost summer jobs

The effects of recent cuts to President Clinton's package of federal funds for such programs as summer jobs are trickling down to Citrus and Hernando counties.

The Citrus-Hernando Private Industry Council fears it will receive about $250,000 less than it expected if the current version of the president's economic package passes the Senate, according to Lee Ellzey, executive director of the council.

And if the Senate drastically cuts the program further, the counties could lose even more money for jobs, officials say.

When the president proposed his economic package earlier this year, it included about $1-billion for summer jobs. According to Ellzey, the council had expected to receive $1-million for 650 summer jobs _ $600,000 budgeted last year, plus $400,000 in new funds.

But congressional cuts trimmed that $400,000 share to $150,000, he said.

As a result, the council will be able to provide only about 560 federally subsidized summer jobs this year _ 90 fewer than projected. Last year,nearly 400 young people in Citrus and Hernando counties were placed.

"We can't serve as many people as we want to," Ellzey said.

When the council stopped taking applications from youths seeking summer jobs, it had received 650, Ellzey said. He said the council still receives several phone inquiries a day.

Under the program, youths from low-income families work for government agencies such as Southwest Florida Water Management District and non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross.

If the Senate does not pass the pared-down bill, the area would not even get the $150,000 increase. The result would be 60 fewer jobs and cutbacks in some innovative programs, Ellzey said.

One such program is a newspaper to be produced through the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural and Education Project. The newspaper would focus on job opportunities and training for local students.

Since the number of job applicants exceeds the number of available positions, some applicants will be turned down, Ellzey said. Priority will go to the most needy first, such as youngsters from families on federal assistance. Next in line will be applicants who live close to workplaces or who have participated in the program before.

U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Dunnellon, said she supported the original Clinton stimulus package, which increased spending on summer jobs.

"We're disappointed," Thurman said. "But we have to learn to live with budget reductions."