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Published: Tuesday, 2/10/2009

Jobless claims branch set for Bedford library

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - A slumbering economy and demand from jobless workers has caused the Monroe County office of Michigan Works to open a one-day satellite office at the Bedford Library Branch each week.

Beginning tomorrow, the library at 8575 Jackman Rd. will be staffed with employment specialists to make it easier for some of county's estimated 8,500 unemployed workers to file jobless claims and report their unemployment status quicker.

The satellite office - the only one in the county for Michigan Works! - will be open in the library on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in a study room at the branch.

The employment rate in the county skyrocketed to 11.3 percent in December, the highest level for the month in 25 years. That equates to about one in nine workers in the county.

The last time that the unemployment rate went that high in December was in 1983 when the number of people without jobs hit 13.7 percent.

Stacey Gains, employment services coordinator, said the office has seen a demand for services from people who live in the south county area.

"We kind of looked at the numbers of people coming into receive services. We saw a need in the south part of the county. We decided to put a satellite office in that branch to bring employment services to south county residents," Ms. Gains said.

Michigan Works, which also offers job retraining for displaced workers, is located at 1531 North Telegraph Rd. in Monroe.

Ms. Gains said about 600 people were coming into the Monroe office each week seeking employment benefits and assistance in getting jobs.

"We also see people who come from places in Ohio, like Toledo and Bowling Green, not just places in southern Michigan," she said.

Crystal Shiffert, reference librarian, said the branch was contacted by the employment office.

"We have many customers who don't want to drive from Bedford Township to Monroe. That is why the second office was opened," she said.

Currently, the plans are to keep the branch in the library open indefinitely.

"We are going to stay open there as long as we see a need. We will adjust accordingly," Ms. Gains said.

The branch, like the Monroe office, will offer job seekers the opportunity to get assistance from staff in registering for unemployment, looking for jobs, and accessing the Michigan Talent Bank.

However, Ms. Gains said people who go to the library branch will not be able to sign up for No Worker Left Behind, which provides up to $5,000 a year in tuition assistance for eligible applicants to attend college.



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