Galesburg Wants To Keep Employment Office Open - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Galesburg Wants To Keep Employment Office Open

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The jobless rate held steady in Illinois last month, sitting at 8.7 percent.

That's one point lower than a year ago.

There's still 576-thousand Illinois residents looking for work and the search could get harder for some relying on face to face help.

The state's improvements mean it will begin losing federal funding.

Forcing it to close offices and lay off staff.

Galesburg is one state office scheduled to close in mid-March.

Leaving people with two options to visit an unemployment caseworker face to face.

They'd have to drive to either the Quad-Cities or Peoria.

Both offices are about 50 miles away, or an hour's drive.

The Mayor says that's an additional hardship for the unemployed here, one he hopes to keep from occurring.

"This is targeted less than 60 days a way when you're going to have a complete facility closure and I believe because of that there's not going to be a smooth transition and we actually may have folks fall through the cracks," says Galesburg Mayor Salvador Garza.

He wants to keep the employment office open. He's working with a coalition of interests to provide the state with another option.

"It provides invaluable services to folks who aren't comfortable navigating over the Internet, and or over the phone," says Garza.

Services Steve Lewis needed today.

"Well, we had a snafu on my check deposit, at the bank and trying to figure that out, since they don't answer the phone anymore you have to drive up here," says Lewis.

He drove up from Macomb because he doesn't own a computer. A situation faced by many around here.

"Poverty town, low income, there's no money, there's no jobs here, what are we going to do?" asks Richard Carr.

He uses the office for his job search. He's been out of work three months and he says there are few other places for him to go.

"Check on jobs, job statuses, check your e-mails, it takes a while to go through everything," says Carr.

Galesburg's library has ten computers, but limits its users to one hour a day to keep them open for as many as possible.

Assistant director Jane Easterly says, "We feel that we have a number of patrons whose only access to Internet is at the library."

She says three thousand people used the computers last year, ten percent of Galesburg's population. Garza says a face to face office is needed, at least until the employment situation improves.

"To get to a point where the unemployment rate is as such so the claims can be made over the phone and via the Internet, we're not there yet."

The state says it is willing to work with its employment service partners to find an acceptable alternative.

Garza says he has reached out to federal lawmakers to try and restore some funding for the Galesburg office.

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