Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith, communications and employer engagement manager for the South Central Workforce Development Council. 

Your company decided to outsource payroll so you’re out. Maybe they brought in new management who cleaned house. Perhaps the company is converting to an electric fleet, and you no longer have the skills to work on the new vehicles. Whatever the circumstances, being laid off is no fun. It can be hard to pick up the pieces and look for a new job.

Work is often part of our identity. Being laid off is painful. After separation, take a day or two to grieve. Stomp around. Scream at the world! Try to deal with the anger so you can then focus your energy on moving forward.

Next, file for unemployment insurance benefits. The best and fastest way to apply for unemployment is online with a computer or laptop. (You can’t use a cellphone or tablet to file.) Go to esd.wa.gov/unemployment to learn how. You can also call 1-800-318-6022; however, depending on the time of the year, you might have to stay on hold for a while. Call between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.

It’s important to remember that unemployment benefits are designed to provide you with temporary income when you lose your job through no fault of your own. Benefits only replace a portion of your lost earnings — about 60% regardless of financial need. Benefits last no more than six months and there are no extensions. (All those extra benefits offered during the initial months of the COVID pandemic ended in 2021.)

If you are approved for unemployment, you are required to make three job searches per week, file weekly claims, and keep a written record of you job search.

If you lost your job through scenarios described above — layoff, reorganization, skills no longer in demand, closure/sale of a business or others as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor — there is a bright spot. You might be considered a “dislocated worker.”

Thanks to the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), there are funds to help “dislocated workers” get back to work as soon as possible. And the best part, WIOA programs offer help at no cost to qualifying individuals!

Help ranges from job search assistance to retraining for a new occupation. At a minimum, you can meet at no cost with a professional career counselor to discuss your options. The counselor will help you build a better resume, apply for jobs online, and/or practice interviewing.

You might also find you qualify for tuition assistance to reinvent yourself. Finally get that high school diploma or finish your college degree. Dislocated workers may also be eligible for assistance with transportation costs, child care, even tools and clothing for work.

So how do you connect with the Dislocated Worker Program? It’s easy; visit your local WorkSource center. Locally, WorkSource Yakima is in the Ahtanum Ridge Business Park just south of Costco off Ahtanum and Long Fibre Road. (There also WorkSource offices all over the state — check out the WorkSource locator map on WorkSourceWA.com.) Let the front desk staff know you were laid off. WorkSource staff will either introduce you to a dislocated worker career counselor or direct you to complete a brief online questionnaire. Answer all questions honestly; there are multiple programs to help unemployed people. Take advantage of them!

Believe it or not, some people who have been helped by the Dislocated Worker Program say losing their job was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Michelle Smith is the communications and employer engagement manager for the South Central Workforce Council in Yakima.

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