Job service offices face cuts

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 03:53 PM

People looking for work locally and across the state could face another roadblock starting later this summer — reduced hours of operation at job service offices or even the loss of locations.

A combination of the impact of the sequester and changes made by Republican state elected officials in their approach to unemployment compensation could result in a $25 million to $30 million funding shortfall. The shortfall would affect money used to operate the more than 100 job service offices across North Carolina, which are the main point of contact for people seeking job openings and applying for unemployment benefits.
The state should begin phasing in some type of cutbacks in hours at job service offices or elimination of locations beginning in August. No details have been released, as state officials examine ways to deal with the loss of funding, said Linda Weiner, a vice president for the North Carolina Community College System who is working in partnership with the state Department of Commerce on work force issues.
“If you are going to have a $25 million to $30 million reduction in your funding, you are going to have to find ways to do things more efficiently and effectively,” Weiner told The High Point Enterprise.
Any cuts affecting job service offices would be phased in over a period of time beginning next month, she said. 
“We may have to reduce some hours or days of the week (of operation) in some offices, or find partners willing to do low-cost or no-cost leases,” Weiner said.
Guilford County is unusual in having two main job service offices — one in High Point and another in Greensboro. The main Randolph County Division of Employment Security office is in Asheboro, while Davidson County’s job service location is in Lexington.
In determining when and where job service office cuts will occur, the state will consider issues such as the cost of office leases, number of clients using locations, proximity of offices to each other and the jobless rate in the county, Weiner said.
The elimination of service at Division of Employment Security offices is an unwelcome outcome of the bill passed in February — but taking effect this week — that changes the state’s approach to unemployment assistance, said Alexandra Forter Sirota, public policy analyst with N.C. Budget and Tax Center in Raleigh.
The high-profile impact of the bill — passed by the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly and signed by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory — has been reducing the number of weeks people can draw unemployment benefits and cutting the amount of the weekly benefit. Republican leaders took the moves to resolve a more than $2 billion debt the state owes the federal government for unemployment compensation during the Great Recession.
One less-noticed effect of the change, until now, is that the state eliminated some of the trust funds that were set aside to support assistance to people through job service offices, Sirota said.
The wording of the bill that changed unemployment compensation “restricts the use of the reserve fund to payment of benefits and nothing else; so this is likely the major driver of the changes to the job (service office) centers,” Sirota said.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528

 

Anyone who needs help either looking for work or applying for unemployment benefits can contact one of the N.C. Division of Employment Security offices in the area. The offices include:
High Point, 607 Idol St., 882-4141
Asheboro, 355 S. Fayetteville St., 625-5128
Lexington, 103 W. Center St. Extension, 248-2326