Employment-office cutbacks will hurt rural Kentuckians

Gary Bentley
Gary Bentley

You are unemployed, you no longer have transportation, and the job market has collapsed in your region. How do you find new training? How do you access face to face counseling to better your resume, improve your interview skills, learn about employers who may be interested in your skill set?

You visit the Kentucky Career Center in your area.

For many people in rural areas, this may now mean you are on the road three or more hours to make a round trip to that office.

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet is pulling employees out of 31 unemployment offices across the state in an effort to save millions of dollars.

This decision comes after the Office of Unemployment and Training has struggled financially and, after applying for federal grants, still faced a deficit of $4.6 million for the fiscal year of 2016.

The cabinet will now focus on 12 hubs and eight satellite sites which will make it more difficult for those in rural areas with no public transportation to have access to the much-needed services offered. Many have been unemployed beyond the reach of unemployment insurance benefits and are now struggling to make ends meet.

Miners who have lost their jobs and are now being forced to fall back onto jobs paying minimum wage, which we all know is far from a living wage. There are union miners who have lost their pensions and are at risk of losing health care. There are factory workers laid off as the companies moved their operations in order to pay lower wages and increase profits.

Kentucky’s unemployment rate has been higher than the national average for 2016. For those in rural areas, access to employment is even more scarce. Some do not have access to personal transportation, telephone or internet. So how will these people now access the training needed to move forward in life? They won’t.

We can all agree that operating with a deficit is not an option and that cutting education, training and access to those resources is not an option for our state either. We must demand that our state work harder to focus on the things that matter to us as citizens. Ask your representative, governor, senator and local affiliates to focus on the problems at hand and to work toward opportunities that can give all citizens prosperous opportunities.

In the first week of 2017, the legislature voted on legislation categorized as an emergency vote. They were in session on a Saturday to vote these bills through. None of those bills focused on job creation or training for constituents in rural areas.

Now, as our unemployment offices close and are moved to hubs that are out of reach to many, we must demand that our leaders focus on all of their constituents and create a prosperous future for all of Kentucky.

Gary Bentley of Lexington is a Whitesburg native. Reach him at garybbentley@gmail.com.