Summit County pairs food assistance recipients with jobs
Several area residents attended the Colorado Employment First orientation on Tuesday, as part of the job-seeking program recently implemented through Summit County Social Services.
The federally mandated program is intended to pair food assistance recipients with work experience and monthly job-search support. Colorado Employment First reports 70 percent of participants are employed within six months.
“We can find out some information about them and see what might be the best fit, and work on placing them with nonprofit or government agency,” Summit County Social Services self-sufficiency manager Michael Whitaker said. “We’re excited to have this program. We look forward to having it grow and become an important part of the community.”
With the implementation of the program, food assistance recipients ages 18 through 59 are required to participate through resume-building and job-searching activities, and getting volunteer experience based on the amount of assistance received. Activities can also include attending GED classes and classes at the Colorado Workforce Center.
“We’re working closely with the Workforce Center in Frisco to help people develop skills like interviewing and preparing a resume,” Summit County Employment First coordinator Janet Wolfson said in a statement. “It can be overwhelming to re-enter the workforce, but this program ensures that people don’t have to start from scratch.”
Participants may work 10 to 23 hours at Summit County “workfare sites” including the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, the Community and Senior Center, the Rotary Community Dinner in Silverthorne and with Summit County Government. Worker wages are covered by federal funding.
In Summit County alone, Whitaker estimated about 1,000 residents could be eligible, with 552 families listed as food assistance recipients.
“A lot of times, people who come in that are on food assistance are lacking confidence if they’ve been out of workforce for a while,” Whitaker said. “This will give them confidence and references from workfare sites to use while applying for other jobs.”
He added that across the state, participants who had worked with the program for more than a month typically landed jobs with wages well above the minimum.
While the Employment First program has been in Colorado for 30 years, it was instated in Summit County this year due to improving economic conditions. With the exemption being removed, the county is required to begin participation in the program by next January, but Whitaker said they opted to start immediately.
“I think it’s going to be a great program for the community,” he said. “It will be interesting to hear the individual success stories.”
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