Governor Branstad is touting an expanding, state-run computer network for job-seekers on the eve of next week’s court hearing on the lawsuit challenging the closure of state Workforce Development offices. Branstad used his item veto authority to nix money legislators set aside for staff and other expenses to run those offices.
“I’ve had some experience with item veto cases before. We feel very confident about this. Remember, this is just district court. Eventually it’ll probably going to go to the Supreme Court, so it’s going to take a long time,” Branstad says. “But in the meantime instead of fighting the battles of the past we want to look to the future and make sure we’ve got a delivery system that meets the needs of Iowans in the best and most economical way in the way possible.”
Officials estimate the state will save $16.5 million through the closure of more than 50 Workforce Development offices. Computer terminals in public places like libraries, community colleges and even churches are now the way unemployed Iowans can link into the state’s Workforce Development agency. Teresa Wahlert, the agency’s director, aims by year’s end to have 500 computer access points around the state.
“We continue to add new things. This is a very evolving technology. One of the things we added just today…is a fifth option for people and it’s called, ‘I am a student,'” Wahlert says. “And in this fifth option we have things like ‘How to find a job’, what the requirements are for GED. We are working on a partnership with ACT to add practice testing.”
Those practice tests for the ACT and for GEDs will be available in December.
Workforce Development staff are now available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. ’til 2 p.m. to answer questions from people who go online and seek help with their job search. Wahlert says in the past, Workforce Development offices weren’t open past 4:30 p.m. and not every county in the state had an office. Today, there are 370 on-line access points for the Workforce Development computer program.
AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference.