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Most WorkSource Oregon offices reopen to help job seekers

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State says 35 of the 39 offices now accept in-person appointments for job matching and skills training

The state Employment Department has reopened 35 WorkSource Oregon centers in its push to help as many people as possible obtain jobs or training before federal unemployment benefits expire Sept. 4.

Most of the 39 centers reopened Monday. A few on the Oregon Coast, and in Southern and Eastern Oregon opened earlier as a pilot project to test their capacity.

"We know there is a lot of pent-up demand from people wanting assistance," acting Director David Gerstenfeld told reporters in July. "So we want to make sure we are as well prepared as possible."

Along with the reopening of most offices is a refreshed WorkSource Oregon website in English and Spanish. Google Translate is on the website, and nine more languages are scheduled to be added.

Though offices are reopened, visitors and WorkSource Oregon employees are required to wear face masks to deter the spread of COVID-19. Visitors also are asked to arrange appointments for in-person assistance to minimize their waiting times. They can still call or go online for help.

"We are very happy to be open again and helping customers find work and explore their career options in person," Jim Pfarrer, director of workforce operations for the Employment Department, said in a statement.

"The refreshed website will showcase the range of personalized, high-quality employment and training services that our skilled WorkSource staff can offer to job seekers and employers."

Among the free services offered: One-on-one help from an employment specialist; workshops on resume writing, interviewing and other skills; job matching; hiring events; public computers; on-the-job training; veterans services; and employment and training for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamp) benefits.

WorkSource Oregon offices do not process unemployment claims, however.

WorkSource Oregon is a partnership between the Employment Department and a range of government, education and nonprofit agencies.

Oregon is divided into nine areas. Multnomah and Washington counties are served by Worksystems Inc.; Clackamas County has its own agency. There had been six WorkSource Oregon offices in the three counties before the pandemic forced their closure in April 2020.

"When you make an appointment and come into one of our locations, you can expect to be welcomed by a staff member and receive one-on-one service," said Karen Madden Humelbaugh, director of the Office of Workforce Investments at the Higher Education Coordinating Commission Office.

"We will listen to your needs and connect you to trainings, workshops, employers — whatever makes the most sense for you and your career goals."

Gerstenfeld said the amount of help will vary with each person.

"Some people are really self-sufficient and know exactly what is needed. It's pretty easy for them to find a job through iMatch Skills, and there's not a huge effort on our part to help them find that next job, especially in such a competitive job market," he said.

"Other people are facing real barriers … such as medical conditions or child care, or it could be they need some additional training to be competitive for a job or the career they want. So there is a lot of individualized work."

The reopening comes a week after the Employment Department reinstated active work search requirements as a condition of workers filing their weekly claims for unemployment benefits. People who receive regular benefits from the state unemployment trust fund or federal benefits under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (maximum 53 weeks) also must register with the iMatchSkills system and complete job-seeker profiles.

The other work search requirements — being able to work and available for work — are being phased in for a deadline of early September. Many federal unemployment benefits are scheduled to end Sept. 4. Under federal law, it's Labor Day, but Oregon and most states end their claim weeks on Saturdays, so Sept. 4 will be the final day for federal claims unless there is congressional action.