Inslee directs $4 million to aid long-term unemployed

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has directed the state’s Employment Security Department to deploy $4 million in federal funding to help long-term unemployed people find jobs.

The Employment Security Department will being seeking strategic proposals from local workforce development councils over the next month. Councils must submit proposals by April 17, and the contract awards will be announced by April 24.

The funding comes from the federal Rapid Response Program, which normally provides special services to help workers who loss their jobs due to mass layoffs at single companies. The number of mass layoffs has dropped as the economy has improved, but the number of long-term unemployed workers continues to grow.

By the end of February, more than 195,000 people in Washington had run out of all unemployment benefits since July 2008, and at least 118,000 of them were still unemployed.

According to Employment Security data, about 60 percent of those who remain unemployed had consistent employment in the year prior to their layoffs. Many previously worked in highly skilled jobs and have college degrees.

“To continue our economic recovery and build a Washington that works for all of us, we need to do more to help the long-term unemployed overcome the  stigma and institutional challenges they face in their efforts to return to work,” Inslee said, in a news release. “Many of these workers contributed to the strength of our economy before the recession, but they’ve been shut out of the recovery and we need to turn that around.”

There are 12 business-led workforce development councils across Washington. The councils also include representatives from labor, local colleges and schools, Employment Security and other organizations involved in workforce development.

One, the Northwest Workforce Council, is based in Bellingham.

The councils operate 28 full-service WorkSource employment centers across Washington, as well as dozens of limited-service sites in smaller communities and on college campuses. Altogether, WorkSource provided employment services to more than 239,000 job seekers and thousands of employers last year.

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