If you’ve been driving around lately, no doubt you’ve been seeing those words plastered on signs on the windows of numerous businesses.
The perception that people aren’t entering the workforce because they are receiving extended unemployment checks is partly valid. But there are other reasons while business owners are pulling their collective hair out trying to find employees.
Theresa Van Son, (photo at right), director of the Genesee County Career Center (Job Development Bureau), indicated as much earlier this week as she reviewed her agency’s 2020 activity to the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee.
“I think that (enhanced unemployment benefits) are part of the issue,” she said, “but I think there are other things that are affecting it as well."
Two of those “things” are the parental need to take care of their children in a remote or hybrid school setting and the New York State Department of Labor being too busy to track if the unemployed are seeking work.
“If schools aren’t fully back again, those parents may not have those options (for childcare) so they may be wanting to stay on their unemployment,” she said. “Another piece of it is when you register for unemployment every week, you have to say that you’re ready, willing and able to work and that you’re doing job search activities. But, right now, the Department of Labor is focused on, still, processing all of those claims and nobody is checking that.”
Van Son said she expects job seeking to “kick into high gear in September when everybody is scrambling to find a job and they don’t have that extra money (when federal unemployment insurance runs out).”
“And we’re prepared for that. We’re doing everything we can to assist local businesses who are looking to find job seekers. You see the (help wanted) signs everywhere. The outlook right now for businesses is that they will look at any candidate,” she offered.
She said that those out of work and receiving benefits are required to come to her office at the Eastown Plaza “to do employment activities and they’re not doing that right now.”
In looking back at 2020, Van Son said the COVID-19 pandemic is putting a huge dent in revenues.
Noting that Genesee County does not directly fund the services of the Job Development Bureau, she said she anticipates a funding shortfall of $70,000 this year compared to 2020. That mostly stems from lost income from the agency’s access contract with New York State Department of Education and its Working To Success program with the Genesee County Department of Social Services.
“It certainly has been a year of challenges and we are justly proud of the work the Job Development Bureau Team has accomplished during the unprecedented time …,” she reported. “We have modified programs, rearranged our space, and adapted plans and schedules multiple times, while adjusting to telework and a virtual environment.”
She said she has cut back on expenses wherever possible, with the plan to use $70,000 of reserves to offset the deficit. Currently, the agency’s cash on hand is about $92,000, she reported.
As far as staffing is concerned, Van Son said three of her five employees are “provisional” and another is of retirement age. She said she hopes all will be staying on for a while longer.
The news wasn’t all gloomy, however, she said, mentioning the cross-training of employees (no more specialized counselors for adult, youth and access) and the signing of a new five-year lease.
“Upgrades were negotiated to increase our building security,” she said. “We added a bathroom off the resource room, which will allow us to limit building traffic, we installed an emergency exit in the back of the building, and we have new carpeting.”
Van Son also said the department has met all contract requirements two months in advance, is “exceeding all of our benchmarks and performance measures” and is serving more citizens than ever.
Other highlights of her report are as follows:
- The agency financially supported 32 people enrolled in occupational training, providing $53,400 for tuition, books and other items. Sixteen more dislocated workers received nearly $35,000 using Trade Act Assistance, which has increased dramatically due to the closing of several local trade-affected businesses. And another 21 people received around $36,500 in work training subsidies as they embarked upon new jobs in the county.
- Thirty-seven youth in jobs at 25 local businesses and nonprofit agencies were subsidized with more than $56,000 in wages during the summer program. The agency began a work ethic awards process and 90 percent of participants received awards. Additionally, two youths were hired into ongoing unsubsidized employment at the end of the summer.
- Five job fairs were conducted, connect 130 job seekers to 56 employers that attended the fairs. Virtual job fairs, however, had to be cancelled due to a lack of registrations.
- The GLOW Workforce Development Area is receiving an increase in funding for this year from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Grant. It includes a 33-percent increase for dislocated workers, offsetting slight reductions in funds for adult services and youth services. This contract covers salary, fringe, equipment, and operational expenses for WIOA services, which make up 66 percent of the Career Center’s annual budget.
- The Job Development Bureau was awarded a five-year contract with NYS Department of Education ACCES-VR to provide Assessment, Work Readiness Services, Job Development and Placement Services, and Work Experience Services. The contract is for a maximum of $102,100 per year. Van Son said referrals to the program have been low during COVID-19, resulting in the agency being $46,560 behind on planned revenue.