The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting our economy and workforce in unprecedented ways. One place people who’ve lost their jobs can turn for help is Workforce Solutions Capital Area. Judy Maggio talks with their chief strategy officer about how their resources can come to the rescue of both laid-off employees and struggling businesses during this challenging time.
Judy Maggio: First of all, Leah, talk about services you provide, and also how the pandemic has impacted those services.
Leah Meunier: It has been an unprecedented time for us, Judy, in terms of hearing from employers who are facing some really difficult decisions in terms of whether they can keep their staff and in terms of hearing from folks who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic. So it has been busy for us, but so glad to be here as a resource to the community so that we can help those employers weather these times and help those individuals who have been laid off get back to work.
JM: Well, I know this is a space you guys have worked in for a very long time. Let's kinda walk people through it. If someone has lost their job, what should they do first when it comes to reaching out to you all, and what kind of resources will they find?
LM: We definitely want them to reach out as soon as possible because we know that there are a number of people filing for uninsurance benefits right now. It can be a complicated process to navigate and so we're here to be a resource via the phone, via email. If there's questions they have, if there's technical problems they have filing for unemployment, we can help them navigate that. We also have a variety of resources available to help them find a new job. We can help them get on to the Work In Texas statewide job database. And we also have a great new resource on our website, which is called Jobs Now. And every single day we are posting new opportunities. And, finally, we can help them access and potentially pay for training so they can re-skill or up-skill and be ready for the next opportunity.
JM: One big concern for people is child care. And I know this is something that you provide to some employees and people looking for work if they want to re-train or search for a job. Can you talk a little bit about that?
LM: Definitely, we are able to offer subsidized childcare for essential workers and we have a very easy two page application. We want this process to be as quick and seamless as possible because these are individuals that are performing invaluable services for our community.
JM: So let's turn now and talk about employers. This has been a hard, hard time for them. They're facing layoffs. They're facing financial issues. Some are just having trouble staying afloat. What resources are available for business owners?
LM: If they are in a position where they have to have a layoff, we can help. We can provide, now, via Zoom, an English or Spanish information session for their employees who are being laid off to help them navigate the process of unemployment and next steps. But we also have resources available to help them avert a layoff. So there's financial resources that can help an employer stay open.
There is a program such as Shared Work that they could look into. That's a program that not everyone knows about, but it allows an employer to reduce hours for their staff and then unemployment benefits through the state contribute the rest of that employee's paycheck. So there's some really innovative ways we can partner with industry to come out of it on a good side, on the other side.
JM: And one thing you told me about is your actual centers are closing now, but you're giving the website information, but there's a wifi hotspot you're setting up.
LM: Yes, we're really excited that at our Northview Office, which is at I-35 and Rundberg, right next to Henna Chevrolet, we have created a wifi hotspot in our parking lot. We know a lot of individuals are working from home, and students are having to complete course work from home, so we hope that those can park in our parking lot and access wifi so that they're not cut off from learning and job opportunities.
JM: What have we not talked about Leah, you think is important information to get out to people who run a business, or those who have lost their jobs? Because, I know Workforce Solutions has been there for them in the past.
LM: Yeah, we are still going to be a friendly voice at the end of the line, here to help. Every week on Wednesdays, we're adding new webinar content to our website that's designed to help people navigate these uncertain times. If individuals in the community have ideas for content they'd like to see, we'd love to hear those as well.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. This reporting is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's American Graduate "Getting to Work" initiative." For more information about Central Texas job opportunities, go to austinpbs.org/americangraduate.
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