Federal budget cuts affect local volunteer program - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Federal budget cuts affect local volunteer program

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LEWISBURG, W. Va (WVVA)-- Local economic growth could be affected by national budget cuts that trickle down to the Two Virginias.

Project directors for the Americorps "VISTA" program, or "Volunteers in Service to America," said Tuesday their national funding is being cut, and this hits West Virginia hard.

There will be no new VISTAs hired to serve in West Virginia, and any VISTA projects the program is still developing will be nixed.

VISTAs work for growing organizations and non-profits that encourage business, community, and economic growth.

Some say without them around, local economy could take a hit.

"We won't be as effective without the VISTAs," said Stephen Weir, Executive Director of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation.

Weir works with VISTAs on a food initiative that works to expand the agriculture industry in the Greenbrier Valley.

"What [these cuts to VISTA] mean to the general community is their economic growth won't be as robust if we're not as effective as we could be," he said.

Allender Stewart, a current VISTA worker in Greenbrier County, agrees.

"Discontinuing the VISTA program, or losing the amount of VISTAs that we have, is not only going to hinder the [growth process] that we've already started," she said, "but it's going to block future organizations from being able to continue and get that kind of jump start they need."

Stewart said the organization, and her placement serving the Greenbrier Valley Chamber of Commerce, has helped not just the economy but also her own personal growth.

"The VISTA program has been a really great opportunity for me to give back to the community where I grew up," she said, "and it's given me really relevant job experience."

VISTAs currently serving terms in West Virginia will be allowed to finish out the year. Although they can not renew their term for another year here, they are welcome to seek placement in other states as not all states' VISTA programs have been cut as severely.

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