WorkSource

Saida Guzman, left, speaks with Dan Drew, executive director and owner of Visiting Angels, during the Yakima Job Fair hosted by WorkSource on March 5, 2020, at the Yakima Convention Center in Yakima, Wash.

So you’re out of work and your unemployment benefits end soon. Do you have a plan?

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) is federal legislation created to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the U.S. workforce. Through WIOA, job seekers — like you — can access employment assistance, education, training and more. The best part is that this help may be available at NO COST to you!

So what does “help” really mean? In general, it means career planning: sitting down with a professional career counselor and creating a strategy for the future. Counselors will ask you questions about your education and your work experience. They will determine if your occupation is in demand (meaning businesses in the local area are recruiting for that occupation). They will talk about finances, your hopes for the future and help you create a budget.

Whether you need help applying for work online, writing a resume or practice interviewing, counselors will be there for you. If you didn’t finish high school, they can even connect you with resources to get your diploma or GED.

Perhaps you need to sharpen your computer skills or train for an entirely new job. Through WIOA, counselors provide tuition support, help with purchase of work tools, childcare, job-related clothing and even transportation costs. They can also pay for related testing fees and license fees (like if you were getting your Commercial Drivers’ License).

Of course, as with all federal programs, there are eligibility requirements and restrictions. Still, the majority of people over 18 who are U.S. citizens or legally entitled to work in the U.S., and/or eligible for unemployment insurance benefits will likely qualify for WIOA assistance. (Men born after December 31, 1959, must also have registered for selective service.)

People who have been found eligible for unemployment insurance benefits because they have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are unlikely to return to their previous occupation may be eligible for WIOA programs. Individuals who owned their own business before the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and who have reduced or ceased operation — like a restaurant owner or farmer who had to dump their crop — may also qualify. Low-income adults with barriers to employment (failure to earn a high school diploma, single parent and/or displaced housewife/househusband) may qualify as well. Special priority will be given to qualifying veterans and their spouses.

Are you ready to start working toward financial independence? Locally, People For People manages WIOA programs. Call 509-248-6727 or better yet, complete the online application at https://mypfp.org/services/employment-training/prescreen/.

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