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CareerSource centers dealing with their own layoffs as economy rises

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In an ironic economic twist painful to some, Florida’s agencies charged with helping unemployed people find jobs are facing budget cutbacks because of the state’s declining unemployment rate — and some now are forced to lay off a few of their own workers.

CareerSource Florida‘s 24 regional CareerSource agencies are facing budget cuts, some deep, and in many cases that means layoffs of those people who help other people who’ve been laid off.

In pure numbers, hardest hit is likely Orlando-based CareerSource Central Florida, which last Friday gave pink slips to 15 of its employees. That center, serving five counties, Sumter, Lake, Seminole, Orange and Osceola, is the state’s second-largest, and the region is boasting one of the lowest unemployment rates.

“It’s kind of a Catch 22 for us when the economy improves. The unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, so that’s great for the economy, but our funding is based on a formula that takes into account the levels of unemployment,” said Tonya Elliott-Moore, CareerSource Central Florida’s director of communications and community relations. “That’s something that workforce boards across the country, not just in Florida, have to deal with.”

Almost all of the agencies’ money is federal, and almost all of it is based on formulas that take into consideration each region’s unemployment rate. As the unemployment rate falls, so does funding, and so do jobs within the unemployment services agencies.

CareerSource Central Florida lost almost $3.5 million from its total budget for Fiscal Year 2017. That compares to a full payroll of about $9 million.

Each agency is making decisions about how to deal with its budget cuts at the local level.

Full budget numbers are not yet readily available for all 24 CareerSource regions. It appears, because of its size and low unemployment rate, that Central Florida was the hardest hit in lost dollars and jobs, but other regions likely are absorbing greater percentage decreases in funding.

In the largest grouping of federal grants, CareerSource Okaloosa Walton is taking the biggest hit, with a 16 percent cut, though from a much smaller budget than Central Florida’s. Five other regions including Central Florida also saw budget cuts of more than 10 percent in the U.S. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds.

“Some boards will experience a larger reduction and others will experience a smaller reduction, based on the funding formula that is set in federal law,” explained CareerSource Florida Communications Director Victoria Langley Heller.

“The primary driver for reduced federal funds is the improving economy. When fewer people are actively looking for employment, federal funding for state workforce systems decreases,” she added. “Each local workforce development board is responsible for determining how it will allocate its portion of federal funds to ensure continuation of quality workforce services to the job seekers and businesses it serves.”

CareerSource got its federal allocations last month and the CareerSource Florida Board approved the allocations to the local CareerSource centers a couple of weeks ago. Local boards have been meeting since, and where they’ve reached their decisions, layoffs are now following.

The 15 layoffs at CareerSource Central Florida were buffered by the local board’s expectations that cuts were coming, and so the agency has left a number of open positions unfilled this year, Elliott-Moore said. CareerSource Central Florida has about 185 employees now, plus another 35 who work under the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“These decisions were very difficult but the staffing impacts were unavoidable,” Elliott-Moore said.

The expectations began years ago as Central Florida’s unemployment rate began its steady plummet from the Great Recession high. Last year CareerSource Central Florida consolidated two Orange County offices into a new one, to save overhead costs. The region also looked at reducing other costs, including technology, Elliott-Moore said.

“We’re really making sure every person in our career centers, our career consultants, are strictly focused on our core services. Now we’re really fine-tuned. Everybody has to have a full case load,” she said. “We’re not anticipating any service delivery reductions through this staffing mitigation.”

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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