Grant programs offer help to unemployed
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two new federal grant programs are expected to help the Colorado Workforce Centers in Routt County and across the state better assist those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COResponds and RecoverCO are programs aimed at getting workers back into the workforce, or to provide training and education, according to Jessica Valand, regional director for workforce development in Northwest Colorado.
“I would encourage anyone in the community who is either unemployed or underemployed — if they have a job that is not the right fit, they’re not getting enough hours, or they’re really trying to see if they can get a higher income — to reach out to our offices,” Valand said.
In December 2019, just months before the pandemic unfolded, the unemployment rate in Routt County was 1.7%, one of the lowest in the state. By April 2020, it reached a historic high of 18.2%.
Unemployment numbers dropped significantly through the summer months, having reached 5.8% in November. With an increase in COVID-19 cases that resulted in suspension of in-person dining at the end of November, along with colder temperatures, unemployment numbers climbed back up.
Routt County’s unemployment rate today is sitting at 7.7%, with numbers for January expected to come out Friday.
“The Workforce Center exists to take people through what their options are and what’s going on in the local labor market,” Valand said. “Sometimes getting your foot in the door through a new training program, a credential or a certificate can be really helpful.”
The two federal programs received just under $5 million each in Federal Disaster Recovery Grants, and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, which will oversee the grants, has encouraged job seekers to contact the local Colorado Workforce Center to see if they are eligible for either program.
“As we work on Colorado’s economic recovery, it’s important that Coloradans know that there are resources available to help them find jobs,” said Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “The COResponds and RecoverCO grants can help many job seekers find temporary and permanent work. To date, 326 Coloradans have participated in these programs.”
COResponds provides funding to the state’s workforce centers, to be used to connect job seekers who have been laid off, as well as those who are currently underemployed or self-employed with temporary job opportunities. A list of 44 jobs have been approved for the funds.
RecoverCO helps Coloradans who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic by providing comprehensive career and training services for a rapid return to work and supportive services to ease financial burdens during job search and training.
Steamboat Springs Workforce Center
425 Anglers Drive D-2 in Steamboat Springs
Serving Routt and Jackson counties
The federal dollars will be spread among the 53 Colorado Workforce Centers, which provide a wide array of no-cost services to Colorado’s workers and employers, including individualized help with resumes and interview skills, connections to job and training opportunities. Both grants are slated to run through March 2022.
“The unfortunate reality is that our federal funding has gotten smaller and smaller year after year,” Valand said. “But now we are getting additional funding both at the state level through these grants, and we also anticipate more federal funding in the future.”
The importance of the resources provided by Workforce Centers has taken on new meaning in a world turned upside down by a global pandemic.
“… I do think it’s super important that people understand that if they’re unemployed or underemployed they can reach out to us, and we can help them with that job search,” Valand said. “We haven’t had anyone contacting us that I’m aware of at our Steamboat office to specifically ask about these grants.”
However, she said anyone who is filing for unemployment is required to register with the Workforce Center and to actively look for work. She said her staff will be looking for job seekers that are a good fit for some job training or who might benefit from the programs.
She said people that need help finding a job, or finding the right job, can also contact her office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-879-3075. The office, which has been operating virtually, now offers in-person appointments.
“Before the pandemic started we had way more jobs than we had people actively looking for work — particularly in service sector jobs, which is our bread and butter and Routt County,” Valand said. “I would tell you that even though the ratios are not quite as high as they used to be, we still have more jobs open then we have people looking for them.”
Unfortunately, many of those are frontline service jobs that have been less desirable in the wake of the COVID-19, she said.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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