DES MOINES – This week the Branstad administration began closing local workforce offices that help unemployed Iowans find work, despite the recent passage of Senate File 517, bi-partisan legislation to keep the offices open. |DES MOINES – This week the Branstad administration began closing local workforce offices that help unemployed Iowans find work, despite the recent passage of Senate File 517, bi-partisan legislation to keep the offices open. The state workforce offices help Iowans search for jobs, prepare for interviews, improve their skills, and help businesses find qualified employees.
Offices in Iowa Falls and Mount Pleasant have already been emptied and the doors are locked. The Iowa Falls office phone number, (641) 648-4781, has been disconnected. The Mount Pleasant workforce office number, (319) 385-4241, simply puts callers in an endless voicemail loop.
“Governor Branstad and Teresa Wahlert, his Director of Iowa Workforce Development, are sneaking out of town like thieves in the night, stealing services from unemployed Iowans,” said Senator Bill Dotzler, chair of the Senate Economic Development Budget Subcommittee.
The local offices are funded by state appropriations. The Republican-controlled Iowa House and the Democratically-controlled Iowa Senate have given final approval to Senate File 517, the compromise Economic Growth budget which specifically mandates that the offices stay open and provides the necessary funding to do so.
“Why is Governor Branstad shutting down help to Iowans looking for work at a time when a hundred thousand Iowans are unemployed?” said Dotzler. “We should continue helping unemployed Iowans get back on their feet and help their communities recover from the national economic recession. Governor Branstad needs to follow the law when it comes to helping Iowa workers.”
The Branstad administration’s effort to close at least 37 local workforce offices comes at a time when the governor is also demanding millions in tax breaks for large out-of-state corporations. Earlier this spring, the governor’s office abruptly announced that workforce offices would be replaced by Internet access at local libraries. That plan has been rejected by local librarians who say they lack the training and resources to provide meaningful employment services.
“Teresa Wahlert wasted more than $10,000 that was earmarked to keep the offices open to tag along on a junket to Asia,” said Dotzler. “Is the Branstad Administration promoting investment in Iowa by spreading the news that unemployed Iowans will soon be desperate enough to work for less than Chinese workers?”