Help on its way for unemployed | SteamboatToday.com

Help on its way for unemployed

Stimulus package, US government, local pros offer assistance

Blythe Terrell

Employment specialist Brian Bradbury, right, talks with Marcus Idzahl as he fills out an application at the Colorado WorkForce Center. Idzahl, who drives an 18-wheeler, holds a commission-based job, but he is hoping to land a similar job that has a more steady pay structure.

Increasing numbers of Routt County residents are suffering the pangs of unemployment. The bright side, however, is that tools, money and support are available.

The most recent unemployment figures, from February, put Routt County’s unemployment rate at 5.2 percent. Moffat County was at 6.8 percent, and Colorado was at 7.2 percent unemployment for the month.

“Eighty to 90 percent of our work right now is just answering unemployment questions,” said Brian Bradbury, an employment specialist at the Colorado Workforce Center’s Steamboat Springs office.

The numbers paint an unpleasant picture. Unemployment has leapt during the past year. In February 2008, it was 2.6 percent.

“We’re on our way up, definitely, and that’s about as high as I remember,” Bradbury said.

And work is tough to come by. The Workforce Center usually has about 150 available Routt County jobs on its list, he said.

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On Monday, there were 12.

But help is coming from the federal government and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Colorado’s high figures make residents eligible for another 13 weeks of federal emergency unemployment benefits starting next week.

The reinvestment act, known as the federal stimulus package, is doing three things, Bradbury said:

– Adding $25 per week to unemployment benefits.

– Eliminating taxes on the first $2,400 of benefits.

– Allowing an extra six months for people to file for emergency unemployment compensation.

Stimulus money also is slated for “the delivery of employment and training services,” Bill Thoennes, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said in an e-mail.

Colorado is expected to receive about $3 billion in funding from the stimulus package, he wrote. Of that, about $31 million will be allocated statewide under the Workforce Investment Act “and will be used predominately for training workers in high demand and growth occupations,” Thoennes wrote. Another $2 million will go toward matching workers with jobs.

He said in an interview that he wasn’t sure what those growth occupations were.

“We know that in many cases the dollars that will be allotted will be for training and job search assistance, especially in terms of industries that are being targeted, if not industries that are hot, but industries, we believe, will be instrumental in pulling us out of the recession,” Thoennes said.

Renewable energy, water and transportation projects are expected to create jobs, he said in the e-mail. The state plans to start doling out money to communities April 17, Thoennes wrote.

Steamboat resident Karen Goedert has a plan to help people who need jobs now. She led a workshop last week on job finding and resume building, and out of that came a network of job seekers. The group plans to meet from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday at Epilogue Book Co.

“We’re going to just get together, support each other, which was a big thing that came out of our meeting last week,” Goedert said. She runs Columbine Consulting, a human resources consulting firm, and Resort Recruiters.

Goedert hopes to get $5 from participants for handouts and materials, and all are welcome. Those who came to her session last week walked out feeling better, Goedert said.

“At the end of the conversation, the end of the evening, there was some good energy, some good discussion,” she said. “It felt to me that people left the room a little more uplifted, a little better than when they showed up.”

For more

For more information, visit the Colorado Workforce Center at 425 Anglers Drive or http://www.coworkforce.c…

If you go

What: Networking and support session for job seekers

When: 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Epilogue Book Co., 837 Lincoln Ave.

Cost: $5 for materials