Aid offered following job loss

The loss of a job may seem like the end, but it actually is just a turn in the road, according to Becky Cox of the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board.

Cox was among representatives of several agencies to participate in Rapid Response sessions Friday, to help get information in the hands of workers affected by the Sept. 15 closing of Pioneer Community Hospital.

She encouraged affected workers and others in need to create a profile with the agency and use the job search and job matching functions to help find new employment. Cox said displaced workers are tracked “through the system to see how well you’re doing.”

Representatives of the Workforce Center said displaced workers likely qualify for benefits/ programs offered through the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, from resume preparation to completing online applications, occupational skills training programs and travel expenses.

A job training program also is offered through the agency, as is a transitional work experience program. Similar services are available to those with low incomes.

Alanna Nicholas, deputy director of the West Piedmont Workforce Development Board, said healthcare is considered a targeted industry within the sector goals, and determining how to best maximize individual skill sets is an important step in the path forward.

Nicholas said state funds are available through the Pathway program to help with continuing education for workers who are interested in honing their skill set, earning additional credentials or building on their existing skill set.

She advised participants to determine “what credential will give you the biggest push to be the most marketable” in the workforce.

Additionally, Nicholas said funds are offered for those who want to leave the healthcare industry and transition to a different area of expertise.

Sharon Barksdale, supervisor of the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), outlined the process for those interested in applying for unemployment benefits.  Affected workers may apply by calling or online.

Those who file must have two verifiable job contacts to show they have conducted an active job search during the week, Barksdale said. Those contacts can be online, via telephone or in-person, Barksdale said.

Barksdale said after the application is completed, filers will receive information in the mail that will include the monetary amount they will receive, the length of time they are eligible to receive benefits, a personal identification number  (PIN)  and instructions to use the PIN to request payment of benefits.

Benefits can be paid via direct deposit or deposited onto a state issued debit card, she said.

Participants who are eligible for unemployment benefits must file weekly to remain eligible. Each filing must include two verifiable job contacts, she said.

“Keep a record of anywhere you go to look for work,” to include those online or via telephone, Barksdale said.

Those who work part-time must report the amount of any wages earned. Any amount over $50 per week will be deducted from the amount of the unemployment insurance benefit, she said.

The least benefit amount is $60 per week, Barksdale said. The maximum benefit amount is $378 per week. The benefit period ranges from nine to 26 weeks, she said.

Also, those who register for unemployment benefits are required to register for job services with the Virginia Workforce Connection, Barksdale said.

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