By Amitpal Bains
In the past couple of years, many people who have gone through tough economic times got some help from Chemeketa’s Jobs Program.
But times are about to get even tougher: After 20 successful years, the Jobs Program is being cut on June 30.
According to Imara Jabari, the program’s executive director, “The Jobs program is … designed to help people … improve their independent skills and help them find a job. We have a relationship with some businesses who hire the people we train”.
“We have had a lot of success in the last 20 years. We have helped lots and lots of people find jobs and get off of [welfare], and that’s something we are really proud of. We have helped many people become successful in their lives. Last year, we were the No. 1 program in the state at placing people in jobs.”
The Oregon Department of Human Services decided not to renew the contract.
“It’s due to limited funding,” Jabari said. “The Department of Human Services feels like they are spending too much money trying to keep this program going.”
Xochitl Esparza, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program manager, said, “We just don’t have the funding anymore. In the current situation, the effect of the recent recession and slow economic recovery means the state has less money to maintain services. The JOBS program is one of many programs the state legislature has reduced to balance the state budget”.
The jobs program isn’t the most inexpensive program to run, either. According to Esparza, the contract with Chemeketa Community College to provide JOBS services for the period July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, was for $910,748.
Cutting the jobs program is going to affect many people, from the workers to all of the current and future clients.
Jabari said, “It affects many people. It affects the hundreds and thousands of clients we have, the hundreds of businesses we had a relationship with, and it affects the 46 people who worked for the jobs program over here in Chemeketa. Thirty-six of those people have already been cut, and 10 will be cut by June 30.”
Esparza said, “We’ve been working with Chemeketa for a long time, and this was not an easy decision to come to. We have a transition plan in place and appreciate the continued professionalism of Chemeketa staff as we make these changes.”
The DHS is still trying to find cheaper ways to help people get through these tough economic times.
Esparza said, “JOBS clients will still have access to services through other, lower-cost resources in their communities although the menu of services available to them may look different than in the past. The DHS district is also still working on finding a cheaper way to run jobs programs.”
Greg Harries, the Dean of Public Information at Chemeketa, said that the college “was disappointed that dedicated professionals meeting a serious need lost the opportunity to contribute to our community’s well-being.”
With the contract ending on June 30, Jabari and his staff are packing up and getting ready to leave.
Harries said, “I am saddened and Chemeketa is diminished with the loss of these professionals. I respect Imara and the work of his team.”
For more information about the decision or the status of jobs, students are advised to visit Jabari’s office in Bldg. 20 or the Department of Human Services website at www.oregon.gov/DHS.
By Amitpal Bains