Behavioral Health Matters: Workforce initiatives

With lightning speed, COVID-19 became an overwhelming influence in our lives. In January it was a virus in China, by February it was in the United States with a few sporadic cases, and by the middle of March we were closing restaurants and businesses and asking Ohioans to stay at home. The response to COVID -19 has had a dramatic impact on how we work and interact with each other.

Over 2800 Washington County residents have lost their jobs because of business shutdowns and have subsequently filed for unemployment. Many are working from home or with reduced hours. Schools are no longer open and day care centers are closed.

Last week, Governor Mike DeWine presented a road map to safely reopen Ohio. But for many Washington County residents, questions persist. As we look forward to reopening our county and our economy, the Washington County Department of Job and Family Services (“JFS”) is here to help.

While we do not handle Unemployment Compensation applications at the county level — those are processed by the state — we can answer questions and provide guidance. The Ohio Means Jobs Center (“OMJ”) located at the northern end of 1115 Gilman Avenue can provide insight into Unemployment Compensation, help update a resume, and assist in a job search.

While many sectors of our economy like restaurants, retail and manufacturing are struggling, other sectors including grocery stores, trucking and logistics are growing and hiring.

Now is a time of great uncertainty. We are worried about our employers and our employees. We are not certain what life will look like once we reopen our doors and try to get back to work. However, uncertain times can also be a time of opportunity. We are providing more money than ever before to working families.

The State of Ohio is providing Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer payments to all parents of students who receive free or reduced school lunch. Individuals who have questions or want to apply can visit benefits.ohio.gov. New Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will help those who do not qualify for traditional unemployment. Interested individuals can apply at unemployementhelp.ohio.gov

For many workers, being at home has provided the opportunity to hone, improve, or learn new skills. There are countless opportunities for on-line learning.

Workers can find their own skill development sets online, through the Washington County Career Center or through the Ohio Means Jobs (OMJ) Center at ohiomeansjobs.com.

Additionally, as schools reopen this fall, there is an opportunity to return to the Adult Technical Center at the Washington County Career Center or Washington State Community College in order to move into the next career field. Washington County JFS can provide guidance and financial assistance to those who qualify. If you are interested, please visit the OMJ Center or call 740-434-0758.

Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C), another community-based organization in Washington County, partners with the Washington County Job and Family Services to provide career-related opportunities for youth from ages 14-24.years old The program is titled Comprehensive Case Management Employment Program and is designed to provide comprehensive wrap-around services to prepare youth for success.

During the summertime, the focus is working with youth to connect them to employers who have careers that are of interest to them. The program’s goal is to assist youth in gaining worthwhile career and networking experiences to further their career options. Even with the pandemic, there are youth who have requested to enter the workforce, and BB2C is doing its best to connect them with local businesses.

Preparing youth for the workforce by providing workplace training and readiness initiatives will help provide a successful foundation upon which Washington County youth can build productive lives. If you have opportunities for our youth and would like to employ them for the summer, please contact BB2C Program Facilitator, Tonya Davis at 740-370-6399.

Together we can navigate the economic challenges we face. There are programs and benefits available – to help you now, to help you through the next few weeks, and to help you prepare for the workforce of tomorrow. Please take advantage of the programs at JFS and BB2C so that our county can SURVIVE and THRIVE despite COVID-19.

Flite Freimann is the executive director of Washington County Job & Family Services.


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