The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced Friday that its local office would be one of seven to close in a couple of months as a result of mounting federal budget reductions. It leaves the unemployment office in Springfield as the next-closest facility.
Rachel Burdge of Jacksonville has been looking for work since July. She was laid off from the Reynolds plant and comes into the office every couple of weeks.
“I have no way of getting to Springfield because I don’t have a license, so this is the only place that I can get a ride to,” says Burdge. “It’s easier to go here then it is online.”
The city’s most recent job hit came when the Jacksonville Developmental Center shut down. Nearly 400 jobs were lost. “Ben,” who didn’t want to give his real name, was one of those who was laid off. He says the unemployment office shutting down will make it harder for him to seek vocational training.
“It’s not going to make it any easier. The [loss of] one-on-one is detrimental, I believe: that person-to-person where you can get answers directly from a person instead off of a computer, or your staying online or on the telephone for 20 minutes trying to get a hold of somebody that’s real,” he says.
Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard hopes the office will eventually re-open.
“I hope this closure’s not politically motivated. I hope it’s just a service that tied up in budget constraints. This is a valuable service; there’s good people that work in that office that I know personally, and I think it’s just another hit to Jacksonville,” Ezard says.
“However, on a bigger scale, it hurts the folks that are trying to get employment and the skills and training that they need to do that.”
Four positions at the unemployment office will be affected.
A press release from IDES doesn’t indicate if or when the offices could come back. The department is nearly 100 percent federally funded, and dropping unemployment claims are expected to reduce funding by $11 million.