Reps. Karen Shepherd and Bill Orton, D-Utah, say they have been told a major grant is on the way to help Hill Air Force Base workers who lost their jobs to downsizing.
Meanwhile, the office of Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah - whose district contains Hill - charges that the Clinton administration is pulling election-year shenanigans to allow the two Democrats to break the news.Orton and Shepherd in a joint press release said grants totaling $804,211 should be formally announced by the administration Friday.
More than 300 employees lost their jobs Friday in a reduction-in-force announced last January. About 50 of them, through a Department of Defense program, already have new jobs.
The losses aren't as great as the base expected nine months ago. Officials predicted then that as many as 1,100 would be affected. Early retirements, incentives and job shifting reduced the number. Still, local labor officials predict workers won't easily find jobs that pay as well without training or education.
The grant touted by the representatives would help about 160 with career counseling, job placement, training and relocation assistance. Some funds would also help with such things as transportation assistance, child day care, medical costs and job-related tools and clothes.
"These funds are urgently needed to help Hill workers make the transition into new careers," Shepherd said. "We hope this is the last time we'll have to work for such funds and that the future for the rest of the employees is secure."
Orton said, "With the recent reductions at Hill, these funds are welcomed, and we only wish that more people could be helped."
Meanwhile, Hansen's office was upset. Legislative Director Steve Petersen said administrations normally notify all of a state's congressional districts about such grants at the same time - but didn't in this case.
"They can trample themselves running up to the mike to take credit for this if they want, but it's something that would have happened anyway," Petersen said.
He added, "It's great news, and we were aware that the state had applied for such a grant. . . . Some of these agencies almost act like deity in passing out bucks, but it is Congress that appropriates the money."
Hill spokeswoman Barbara Fisher said officials from the state Job Training office have been meeting with workers for several weeks, hoping to get the grant. The state would determine exactly how the money is spent, not the base, she said.
A couple of other similar incidents have irritated Hansen's staff in recent weeks. For example, U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena traveled to Utah to announce a grant for the Salt Lake International Airport, which is in Hansen's district. Shepherd was invited to the ceremony but not Hansen.
Earlier this week, Shepherd also beat Hansen to the punch by a few hours in issuing a press release about additional grants to the airport - but both offices were notified about it at the same time in that instance.