Federal stimulus program puts cash in hands of local businesses.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Monterey County’s One-Stop Career Centers, which help unemployed workers find jobs, now offer a hand to employers – with an infusion of cash from the federal stimulus program.
One who got help is Loni McCallum, the owner of Sudz, a Pacific Grove Laundromat that bills itself as not just clean, but green. For months, she and her husband, Kevin, had put in 14-hour days to get their new water – and energy-saving washhouse off the ground, and needed help. McCallum interviewed dozens of candidates for her fluff-and-fold service, and recently hired two women from one of the county’s One-Stop Centers.
“They’re super-efficient, highly intelligent and professional,” McCallum says. “Both of them have terrific people skills.”
Not only did the McCallums get outstanding employees, but for three months, their wages – $10 an hour – don’t cost them a dime. They are paid through the One-Stop Centers with federal funds. Kevin McCallum says the help is exactly what he and his wife needed to get their business off the ground – and they wouldn’t have been able to do it without the stimulus money.
Nearly 500 workers, from carpenters to electrical engineers to a personal fitness trainer, have been temporarily placed free of charge at a range of Monterey County businesses to the tune of $2 million. Businesses benefiting range from a local hospital to a mortgage company to a masseuse. The program has been up and running since April, when the Workforce Investment Board, which oversees employment and training programs, received more than $5 million in stimulus funding. (Weekly Publisher Erik Cushman serves on the WIB Executive Committee.)
“We’re dedicated to helping the economy with the stimulus money, and we’re going to do that in any way we think is going to work,” says Lynda Dunn, who directs the county’s Office of Employment Training. Additionally, Dunn says, the wage subsidies are designed to provide much needed on-the-job training for hard-to-place workers, or to help companies avoid layoffs during a temporary cash-flow crunch.
But the benefits could be short-lived. Employers are on the honor system when it comes to keeping workers after the subsidies run out, Dunn says. Nothing would prevent an employer from ordering up a free temp worker for three months.
“I’m not going to turn them down,’’ she says. “We have a lot more temp workers than jobs.” Still, Dunn says she and her staff say no to would-be entrepreneurs who don’t sound legit, or those who are clearly turning a profit. However, she adds, “We’re not going to demand last year’s tax records to prove their need.”
But at Sudz, Kevin McCallum and his wife promise to keep their new laundry workers on after their subsidies run out later this year. After all, his wife says one of them practically runs the place.