Although the city has the highest unemployment rate in the region, there's only one full-service employment resource center in central Richmond — and it'll be gone by April.
So the region's two big public providers of employment services are trying to decide how — and where — to help Richmonders who are out of a job.
The Virginia Employment Commission, a state agency, runs the Re-employ Virginia Center on West Marshall Street in Scott's Addition. On an average day about 80 people come to use the free computers, check job listings and meet with employment counselors. Mondays can be madhouses when the freshly laid-off arrive to seek help.
But the Marshall Street center, as well as the commission's unemployment-benefits-only express center on Meadowdale Boulevard in South Side, will close this spring. The centers' funding, provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, runs out in March. The commission plans to merge both centers into a new, as yet undetermined, location.
The other major provider of help for the unemployed is the Capital Region Workforce Partnership, a coalition representing seven counties and the city, which uses federal money to pay for “one-stop” unemployment centers.
The trouble is that the one-stops are all in the counties. One is on Whitepine Road by the Chesterfield County Airport. The unemployment rate in Chesterfield in August, the most recent month for which statistics were available, was 6.9 percent, according to the employment commission.
Another one-stop center is in Sandston, by the Richmond International Airport. In Henrico County the unemployment rate is 7.1 percent. The Virginia Employment Commission's main unemployment office is in Mechanicsville; Hanover County's unemployment rate is 6.5 percent.
In Richmond unemployment stands at 10.9 percent.
City residents looking for job help used to go to the Richmond Career Advancement Center at 201 W. Broad St., which saw as many as 80,000 visits per year. The center was closed two years ago, when the city's work force board merged with the counties'. The city's job seekers also go to Goodwill, which saw 14,330 people at its two employment centers last year.
“With the level of poverty we've got screaming at us right now, I have no idea where to refer people looking for employment services,” Councilman E. Martin Jewell said at a recent City Council committee meeting.
Help is on the way, says the employment commission and the Capital Region Workforce Partnership. The commission is in the process of mapping where its customers come from in order to recommend a spot for a new unemployment office, spokeswoman Joyce G. Fogg says.
And Partnership Director Rosalyn Key-Tiller says the organization is researching sites for a one-stop center downtown, which should be up and running by July.