The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama in February 2009. The ARRA was intended to preserve and create jobs, promote the nation’s economic recovery and assist those most impacted by the recession.
Yuma County was awarded $4.5 million for activities authorized under the Workforce Investment Act, which is being administered by the Yuma Private Industry Council.
To date, YPIC has spent 83 percent of the $4.5 million, mostly for the dislocated workers and summer youth programs. Dislocated workers are those who have lost their job due through no fault of their own.
Due to the high unemployment rate in Yuma County, YPIC has seen an increase in its client base. In February 2010, YPIC’s One-Stop served 1,824 clients, compared with 988 in February 2009.
To serve the increased numbers of clients seeking assistance, YPIC had to increase staff capacity. In the last year, YPIC has hired approximately 25 new staff with ARRA funding, the majority of them dislocated workers.
The Summer Youth Program received $2.2 million in stimulus money, and Congress asked that the majority of those funds be spent in the summer of 2009. YPIC spent 95 percent of the funds last summer, serving 864 youths.
The young participants reported that most of their wages were given to their parents to help support their families. To staff the Summer Youth Program, YPIC also hired approximately 38 temporary workers.
Due to increased number of clients, YPIC also had to re-examine and reinvent the processes of serving clients. Not only were we seeing more clients, but for the first time we were seeing clients looking for work who had a significant attachment to the labor force and had held higher-paying positions.
We looked strategically at every process and had to change many things. YPIC developed a dual focus:
Serving those affected by job losses
• YPIC held a Career Expo in October 2009 to prepare participants for an upcoming job fair. Workshops covered resume writing, dress for success and effective job search skills. We also worked with the Society of Human Resource Management to bring in local HR managers to provide onsite mock interviews and critique resumes.
• YPIC offered two job fairs, one in October 2009 and the other in February 2010. Only employers who had available jobs were invited. More than 2,600 people attended those job fairs.
• YPIC hired three full-time resume writers, who have produced 1,035 resumes from May 2009 through March 2010.
• YPIC hired a financial counselor and contracted with a mental health counselor to be available to our participants.
• YPIC also hired an outreach coordinator to talk with other services providers, religious organizations and services organizations about the services offered by YPIC.
Serving the business community
• In addition to the Dislocated Workers and Summer Youth programs, Rapid Response was included in ARRA. Under Rapid Response, YPIC works with companies before and up to the time of a layoff or business closure, by quickly coordinating services and providing immediate assistance to affected companies and their workers.
• YPIC partnered with Yuma County Chamber of Commerce to provide SMART Training. SMART stands for Strategies Mandatory at Recessionary Times. Since its inception in June 2009, 14 trainings have been provided to Yuma County businesses.
• Lunch & Learns have been developed. Local businesses are invited for lunch, informed of YPIC’s many services and provided with a tour of YPIC’s six-building campus.
YPIC was also awarded an ARRA System Building Funds grant that was used to host a Workforce and Economic Development Summit. The summit’s multiple sessions concentrated on defining initiatives that will respond to opportunities and challenges in order to prepare Yuma for an economic recovery as it emerges.
In addition, YPIC hired a business services officer to conduct business outreach, resulting in numerous job opportunities for YPIC participants.
When Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, they wanted the stimulus funds to be spent effectively and efficiently. YPIC has worked diligently on this, using the majority of the funds for participant expenses.
Are we done yet? Absolutely not!
As long as there are job seekers and employers needing qualified workers, YPIC will continue to work with our community partners to serve Yuma County.
John O. Morales is the executive director of Yuma Private Industry Council, 3834 W. 16th St. He can be reached at JMorales@ypic.com or 329-0990.