These are unprecedented and incredibly fluid times. To be responsive during the COVID-19 crisis, Worksystems developed a Worksystems’ Crisis Response and Recovery Framework to help guide our thinking and activities as we work with partners to address the current crisis and associated economic fallout. This Framework includes the following principles that will guide our investments & activities:
- Prioritize support to the most vulnerable, applying a racial equity lens
- Prioritize support to community-based partners
- Leverage and build on existing networks and assets
- Engage, listen and act quickly
LISTENING AND LEARNING FROM THE COMMUNITY
Worksystems issued a rolling survey to local businesses and community-based organizations. In addition, we engaged our service provider partners to understand their concerns and challenges.
To date, we’ve received 67 responses to the survey. This is what we heard:
- 25% are having trouble making payroll
- 34% are hiring
- 21% (14 organizations) have already laid off staff
- 28% (19 organizations) either have planned layoffs or think layoffs in the next two weeks are very likely
- 57% said they need resources to supplement an employee’s income and benefits due to reduced hours
- 27% said they need remote access equipment to allow staff to work from home
In addition to the survey concerns, our service provider network indicated that many currently engaged customers have no access to computers or internet.
Here’s the latest on weekly unemployment claims by county and industry
- We received $1M in CARES Act resources through a joint funding effort by the Portland Housing Bureau, the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Multnomah County’s Department of Human Services and Home Forward to support COVID-impacted households in Multnomah County. The resources awarded to Worksystems will be prioritized to support BIPOC households seeking job training and placement services who are at risk of eviction.
- We were awarded $600,000 in CARES Act funding from the Oregon Health Authority to provide rent assistance, cash assistance and other supports to residents of Multnomah and Washington counties who have been impacted by the COVID-19 economic crisis with a focus on addressing the disproportional economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on people of color.
- We launched training opportunities in construction and IT, prioritizing BIPOC job seekers hardest hit by COVID-19.
- We are part of the initiative to address worksite culture in the construction industry. As we enter the recovery phase from COVID, we are working to ensure that construction worksites are safe and welcoming places for everyone.
- We are continuing to expand virtual services for WorkSource customers and have developed several new capabilities that will allow job seekers to to sign up for workshops, search for work and create a job search log useful for unemployment insurance reporting, save applications and resumes, access online tools, and communicate online with WorkSource Center staff.
- We are exploring opportunities to partner with the Washington and Multnomah County Libraries to provide workforce development services through their systems to increase access.
- We have received a $144,000 Seed Grant from the City of Portland to serve an additional 30 people in the Justice Involved Portlanders Initiative (Initiative), which provides occupational training to prepare for middle-skill jobs, rent assistance to help training participants retain housing, and job placement assistance to help formerly incarcerated get back on their feet and on a path to self-sufficiency. An estimated 75% of those who will be served will likely be African American and/or Native American.
- We have launched a free online job readiness training program.
- We have received a national award from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for our partnerhsip with Meyer Memorial Trust. Our work together in support of the Economic Opportunity Program (EOP) – specifically customer outcomes through career coaching and analysis of aligning employment and housing services to address homelessness in our region were cited as meaningfully impactful and a model to make known around the country.
- We have launched a multi-language phone line to provide assistance with filing for unemployment insurance.
- We have partnered with Washington County to staff a dedicated phone line to connect small businesses to resources and assistance.
- We have established dedicated phone lines in Multnomah and Washington counties to connect dislocated workers to workforce services and other supports.
- We provided grant funding to support training for tech workers who are telecommuting.
- We are analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on our region’s labor force and sectors.
- We are tracking unemployment claims by county and sector in our region.
- We have launched daily webinars for workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19 to provide information on UI, health care options and other support resources.
- We hosted a webinar to provide information on the housing and eviction moratorium. We are working to promote the Governor’s new Executive Order extending the moratorium.
- We staffed a one-hour webinar with KGW News to answer viewer questions on UI and provide information on workforce training and other support services.
- We have partnered with the State to secure two National Dislocated Worker Grants that bring $1.5M in workforce resources to our region. Thank you Congresswoman Bonamici for your assistance.
- We provided $430k in layoff aversion grant funds to 43 CBOs in Washington and Multnomah counties to help them to continue to operate.
- We built a structure to aggregate available job opportunities. Contact August Dao to learn more.
- We purchased and distributed 400 laptops and 6 months free internet access to trainees in our system who need to connect remotely.
- We have joined the Mayor of Portland’s taskforce to reduce the digital divide.
- We supported the letter that was sent to Governor Brown, Senate President Courtney, and House Speaker Kotek advocating for specific relief for workers in our region impacted by COVID-19.
- We are engaged in policy discussions at the federal and state level to advocate for resources and other assistance. We are also advocating for federal increases in WIOA Title I to support wage subsidies, stipends, re-employment and other transitional supports.
- We established a resource page for current information.
- We are working with our various funders to modify contracts and expectations to reflect the needs that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
- We are advancing payment to our service providers to help with cash flow.
- We are monitoring the availability of additional grant funding and will continue to coordinate the resources of the public workforce system to swiftly respond to community needs.