Richmond job seekers are going to have to wait another year to get a promised unemployment assistance center in central Richmond.
A new one-stop unemployment center run by the Capital Region Workforce Partnership was supposed to open downtown next month. But the group hasn’t found a suitable building, director Rosalyn Key-Tiller says, so it has delayed the projected opening to July 2012.
The other one-stops are near the Chesterfield County Airport off Route 10, in Sandston and on Midlothian Turnpike in Richmond. The partnership serves unemployed people from seven counties, but more clients come from the city than from anywhere else.
“They’re complaining because there’s nothing here,” says Natasha Payne-Brunson, who helps job seekers use the computers at the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. Job seekers can’t afford to travel far for unemployment help, she says, whether they’re going by bus or putting expensive gas in their cars.
“We have been trying to find a site that’s more central,” Key-Tiller says, “but we have not been successful in finding one quite yet.” The ideal building would be at least 10,000 square feet, with space for classrooms, computer labs and rooms for interviews, Key-Tiller says. It needs to be accessible to disabled users, on a regular bus route and offer on-site parking.
The Virginia Employment Commission, a state agency, is separately looking for a place to put an employment help center in the city. The agency gave its criteria — including on-site parking — to the state’s real estate division in the fall, spokeswoman Joyce Fogg says. Nine months later, it’s still waiting for the state to find a building. “Usually, it moves faster than this,” Fogg says.
The employment commission closed its help center in Scott’s Addition in the spring, along with a benefits-only express center in the South Side. No replacement center has opened yet. People who need to file for unemployment benefits can visit the existing centers run by the work-force partnership, Fogg says, or call 866-832-2363.
In October, the partnership will open a center off Nine Mile Road and then close an employment-transition center it operates in Innsbrook. Demand for job help remains high at its other centers, Key-Tiller says. A little more than 13,000 people visited its three centers in the first five months of the year.
Richmond’s unemployment rate has been improving in recent months — in May it was 8.5 percent — but remains higher than in the surrounding counties. Virginia’s unemployment rate was 6 percent in May, a full point lower than it was in May 2010 and significantly lower than the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.