Today, the Employment Security Department reported an announcement by Governor Jay Inslee regarding a new endeavor to assist long-term unemployed workers. Our Governor is working with the Employment Security Department to arrange the use of about four million dollars in federal funding aimed at helping long-term unemployed workers obtain employment.
Recall that the United States Department of Labor is working on support for the long-term unemployed. Our state will be contributing in this effort as Employment Security will be looking to local workforce development councils for proposed new tactics on how to get these folks back to work as quickly as possible. Councils will be asked to tender plans by April 17 and it is expected that contract rewards will be revealed by April 24.
Funding to support this effort comes from a federal program called the Rapid Response Program. This program typically helps workers that lose their jobs through mass layoffs by providing special services such as job search help and career counseling. Since mass layoffs have slowed as our economy has started recovering, the focus is now turning to the issue at-hand of getting the long-term unemployed back to work as the amount of workers in that bucket continues to increase.
To put it into perspective, over 190,000 people in our state had lost unemployment benefits since July 2008 and almost 120,000 of those folks are still unemployed. In addition, Employment Security reports that about 60% of those folks that continue to be unemployed had steady employment the year prior to layoff and many had worked in high-skilled jobs and have college degrees.
It’s great to see how our state is supporting the call to action by President Obama in his January State of the Union Address regarding a strong focus on getting America back to work and it will be interesting to see which proposals will win contract rewards and what those proposals will entail.