The Emerson Park Development Corp. gave its pitch Thursday to U.S. Rep. Mike Bost for continued funding.
Bost, R-Murphysboro, who is on recess from Congress, took a tour of the center which provides job training, housing development, and education.
Students learn skills such as driving a fork lift, construction, operating heavy equipment and how to work with copper wires.
Emerson receives two two grants: $1.3 million for work training, and a YouthBuild grant for $1.1 million. Both are for three years.
The YouthBuild grant is ending.
Jennifer Taylor, 21, is a graduate of the YouthBuild program at Emerson. When she joined in 2015, she had a 4-month-old daughter but no job or place to live.
She said the program helped her communication skills. She also was able to get a job with the program.
“It teaches you things you have never been taught before,” Taylor said.
After completing the program in 2016, she got a job at Hilton Garden Inn and is now working to get a job at a call center.
“They helped me a lot,” Taylor said.
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget calls for cuts in job training, housing and urban development in order to help boost military spending.
Bost said Congress will look at the proposal.
“We know there’s things we’re going to put back in,” Bost said. “There may be some other adjustments.”
Bost said he agreed with increased military spending, “but the question is where these cuts are coming from or are (we) shifting money around.”
Bost added his office will look into the Emerson’s grant funding, which has ended, and whether it qualifies for federal dollars.
“We’ll work to try to help them,” Bost said. “This is a program that works.”
Vickie Kimmel, the CEO of Emerson Park, said if Republicans in control want to make a difference, they should come to East St. Louis to prove their programs work.
“It’s pretty a clean slate,” Kimmel said. “There’s a lot of vacant land, high poverty, there are great people here who are willing to make a difference and willing to pull their boot straps and make it happen.”
She also said she didn’t know what would happen with Trump’s budget proposals.
“I hope the Congress holds him accountable, because those people have to be re-elected every two years,” Kimmel said.
Health care debate
Bost, who did not say how he planned to vote on the proposed American Health Care Act prior to the bill being pulled last month, said on Thursday he would have been a ‘Yes’ vote had the bill come to the floor.
He said the AHCA was not the final part of the Republican approach to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but rather the first of three parts. Other phases included administrative changes that can be made by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and other legislative changes.
“If we don’t get something done, and get it done quickly, it’s going to collapse,” Bost said.
Bost added the Illinois delegation also secured full funding for the Medicaid expansion in the state as part the AHCA.