Senator Needleman, Southeastern Connecticut Democrats Ask Gov. Lamont to Re-open Job Centers

As pandemic continues and jobs disappear, Southeastern CT needs more resources for jobseekers, Democratic lawmakers argue


SOUTHEASTERN CONNECTICUT – State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) and eight other members of Southeastern Connecticut's Democratic legislative delegation have written Governor Ned Lamont asking him to re-open the American Job Center office in Montville in order to assist unemployed jobseekers in the region with job placement, re-training and acquiring new skills.

In the letter dated August 17 (below), the Democrats note that their legislative offices have been inundated with calls and emails from constituents in desperate need of a job. The letter was signed by Sens. Osten and Norm Needleman (D-Essex) and by Democratic state Representatives Kate Rotella, Anthony Nolan, Emmett Riley, Kevin Ryan, Brian Smith, Christine Conley and Joe De La Cruz.

"On numerous occasions, we have requested that the Department of Labor re-open their American Job Centers to assist workers who need to file an unemployment claim, need assistance looking for work, and to provide workforce services for our veterans, businesses, and dislocated workers," Democrats wrote Gov. Lamont. "With adherence to proper social distancing and face mask requirements, along with thorough cleanings of these facilities, we see no reason why these jobs centers cannot be re-opened in a similar fashion to our state's DMV branch offices."

"I keep hearing how well Connecticut is doing with daily COVID testing figures and public compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing, and how state government has opened DMV offices and is preparing to re-open public schools and universities. Well, if it's good enough for those agencies and those needs, we can certainly find a way to re-open Connecticut's job centers in the midst of a national economic downturn – especially here in Southeastern Connecticut," Sen. Osten said today. "I know eastern Connecticut is often out of sight, out of mind with some people. Hartford and New Haven are in the center of the state and they're not doing as badly. But two of the largest employers in the state, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, are in my district, and they are laying off employees. Connecticut has the means to help people with our network of successful and proven job centers, and these centers should be reopened ASAP."

"While Connecticut's fight to limit the spread of COVID-19 has been successful, we cannot lose sight of the people left behind as the pandemic shows no signs of ending," said Sen. Needleman. "The state's economy is struggling despite our effective fight against the disease. We continue to see layoffs at important employers in southeastern Connecticut like Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, and we know tens of thousands of workers are trying to get back into the job market. By reopening job centers around the state, we can better prepare our state for the post-COVID recovery period."

On its website, the state Department of Labor advises Connecticut jobseekers that the American Job Center offices remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Job Center system is a partnership of organizations working to promote a universal approach to providing effective workforce assistance to Connecticut job seekers and businesses; comprehensive and affiliate job centers are located throughout the state and offer walk-in resources to anyone, regardless of their employment status.

There are comprehensive American Job Centers in Bridgeport, Hamden, Hartford, Montville, New Haven and Waterbury, and smaller, affiliate American Job Centers in Ansonia, Bristol, Danbury, Danielson, Derby, East Hartford, Enfield, Manchester, Meriden, Middletown, New Britain, Stamford, Torrington and Willimantic.

According to the latest statistics, the Norwich-New London-Westerly, Rhode Island labor market area has suffered the largest year-to-year drop in total nonfarm employment of any labor market area in the state, down 14.2% from July 2019 to July 2020.

For comparison, the overall state nonfarm employment rate is down 8.5% over the same time period, with the Hartford labor market area off just 7.2% and the New Haven labor market area down 6.9%.

Construction, manufacturing and financial sector jobs remain essentially strong in Southeastern Connecticut, but state and local government jobs in the Norwich-New London-Westerly area – which includes employment with the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribal nations – are down 25.6% year-to-year, or 6,900 jobs lost, which is three to five times higher than any other labor market area in Connecticut.

And Southeastern Connecticut's leisure and hospitality industry has also been hit exceptionally hard, with food service, restaurant and drinking places losing 42.6% of their employees since July 2019 – a loss of 6,400 jobs.


The delegation letter:

August 17, 2020

Honorable Ned Lamont
Governor, State of Connecticut
Executive Chambers
State Capitol
Hartford, CT 06106

Re: Re-Opening of American Job Centers

Dear Governor Lamont,

We have an immediate concern that could be easily remedied. We need the American Job Centers opened.

As you know, hundreds of thousands of Connecticut workers have filed unemployment claims as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic; many of them for the first time in their lives. While the Department of Labor continues to process these claims, our offices remain inundated with calls and e-mails from constituents from all walks of life in desperate need of a job. Many have lost employment from long-term career resulting in a need for new job skills. Training is a desperate need as workers look to the future.

On numerous occasions, we have requested that the Department of Labor re-open their American Job Centers to assist workers who need to file an unemployment claim, need assistance looking for work, and to provide workforce services for our veterans, businesses, and dislocated workers. With adherence to proper social distancing and face mask requirements, along with thorough cleanings of these facilities, we see no reason why these jobs centers cannot be re-opened in a similar fashion to our state's DMV branch offices.

In addition, the latest unemployment figures indicate that southeastern Connecticut has been the hardest hit region of our state during this pandemic. In light of these undisputed facts, therefore, we would like to respectfully request that you order the immediate re-opening of the Montville American Job Center in eastern Connecticut. It is imperative to our regional and state economies that we do everything possible to assist those workers who may need to continue to file weekly claims for unemployment as well as those who need assistance re-entering the state's labor market in new fields.

Again, thank you for your attention to this critical and urgent matter.


Sincerely,

Catherine A. Osten
State Senator, 19th District

Norm Needleman
State Senator, 33rd District

Kevin Ryan
State Representative, 139th District

Brian Smith
State Representative, 48th District

Kate Rotella
State Representative, 43rd District

Christine Conley
State Representative, 40th District

Anthony Nolan
State Representative, 39th District

Joe De La Cruz
State Representative, 41st District

Emmett Riley
State Representative, 46th District

Cc:
Paul Mounds, Jr., Chief of Staff
Kurt Westby, Commissioner, Department of Labor



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