MATTOON — The state has announced the closure of the Mattoon unemployment offices at 305 Richmond Ave. as of mid March.
A press release from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) stated that federal budget reductions and workloads have been affected as the economy starts to recover, leading to the decision to close seven offices across the state.
In all, the IDES will reduce staff by 192 positions and shutter offices in Centralia, DeKalb, East St. Louis, Galesburg, Jacksonville, Mattoon and Murphysboro. The IDES press release said decreasing federal dollars force the closures because the department is almost completely federally funded.
“A recession touches IDES in the exact opposite way that it touches the business community. In the private sector, cost-cutting decisions are required at the beginning of a recession. At federally funded IDES, cost-cutting occurs when the recession has ended and the recovery is moving forward," IDES Director Jay Rowell said in the press statement issued Friday. “This difficult decision reflects smaller federal discretionary spending and undoubtedly is unwelcome in many corners of our state. I hope it will encourage individuals not already doing so to consider accessing our services through the Internet. More than half of those applying for benefits do so electronically, and all eligible workers receive their benefit payments electronically through direct deposit or debit card.”
Closings are expected in mid-March based on several factors, including time needed to accommodate collective bargaining requirements. Positions in other offices across the state also will be impacted, the release said.
IDES’ funding is, in part, tied to unemployment insurance claim volumes. Falling claim volumes as a result of an improving economy are expected to reduce funding by $11 million, according to the press release. Although Congress reauthorized the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, a $7 million reduction is anticipated.
The largest public impact is expected to be on those who prefer face-to-face meetings because they are not comfortable using technology such as the Internet.
Gerry Schlechte, director of Workforce Investment Area operations at 80 Broadway Ave. in Mattoon, says the closure of the offices is a push for more people to use automated systems. He said people will lose the face-to-face interaction as the nearest offices now will be in Effingham or Champaign.
However, Schlechte said the Workforce Development Center facility offers computers and Internet connection for people to fill out unemployment applications online and other resources for those out of work.
The IDES press release said overcoming apprehension of the Internet is crucial to job readiness and successfully participating in today’s economy. Internet availability is not an insurmountable barrier because free access is available across the state at libraries, colleges and career counseling centers, according to the IDES
Answers to specific unemployment insurance questions are available at www.ides.illinois.gov or the call center, the press release stated.
IDES previously consolidated 10 offices, vacated 10 outpost locations shared with partners, and stopped scheduling 216 intermittent employees. Of those 10 offices, five were in Chicago and the others were in Evanston, Freeport, Litchfield, Mount Vernon and Pekin.
Officials at the IDES and the Mattoon unemployment office did not return phone calls Monday to answer questions from the JG-TC including how many state employees work in the Mattoon office and how many residents use the local facility.
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