Astria Regional Medical Center’s emergency department signs are covered or have been taken down as of Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Yakima, Wash.

To succeed in today’s economy, many companies have to streamline their business to remain competitive. Some may be impacted by foreign trade. These situations sometimes result in the elimination of jobs and facilities.

In 2019, we lost some major businesses in Yakima County. Some immediately come to mind: Jeld-Wen, Shopko, Payless, Seneca (Sunnyside), The Avenue, and most recently Astria Regional Medical Center. Sadly, I know there are more; I remember these because the South Central Workforce Council helped those businesses respond to the facility closures by offering layoff services.

The Department of Labor refers to layoff services as a Rapid Response. Rapid Response is a pro-active, business-focused strategy to quickly coordinate immediate aid to companies and their affected workers. It maximizes public and private resources to minimize disruptions associated with job loss. All Rapid Response services are offered at no cost to the businesses and affected employees. The response is intended to help people get back to work quickly.

The South Central Workforce Council organizes and coordinates Rapid Response activities for Kittitas, Yakima, Klickitat and Skamania counties. When we learn of an imminent layoff or business closure, we connect with the company to quickly coordinate a meeting or series of meetings prior to the layoffs. We travel to the worksite and host the meeting(s) at times when employees can readily attend. We explain how to file for unemployment insurance benefits, discuss available employment and training programs, explain health care options, emphasize the Veteran’s Priority of Service, introduce the community college, and perhaps most importantly, connect people with the local WorkSource office.

If the closure is related to foreign trade, we may also bring in the Washington State Employment Security Department and Washington State Labor Council so they can make the connection to the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which may provide aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports or foreign trade.

During the times when a business has worked with us to set up a Rapid Response activity, the layoff and closure seemed to go more smoothly for the workers facing job loss. Employees have reported feeling less stress, and management said they remained productive until business closure and worker morale improved.

Rapid Response also helps the company facing closure. Our team can assist with media relations and rumor control, resulting in better public relations. In the case of the closure of Astria Regional Medical Center, we also organized a job fair, helping connect employees with new employment opportunities.

If you hear about an expected layoff or business closure, large or small, we may be able to help. Vsit our website for more information at http://www.southcentralwdc.com/rapid-response.html. Contact us or visit WorkSource. Help is available.

Michelle Smith is an employer engagement analyst for the South Central Workforce Development Council in Yakima.