The streamlining of Iowa Workforce Development will result in the closing of two area field offices this year. The office in Maquoketa will close its doors at the end of August, and Clinton’s office will close Oct. 31.
However, according to a release by IWD, the process won’t necessarily mean less access to benefits and services offered. The number of field offices across the state will be whittled from 55 to 16 regional offices, the nearest one in Davenport.
But multiple access points will be set up, which the IWD says will actually increase the number of hours services are available to the community. According to Kerry Koonce, spokesperson for IWD, though the delivery method will change, the benefits will remain.
“(Clients) are going to have the same services available to them,” Koonce said.
The access points will have computer terminals that will allow visitors to perform many of the functions currently performed by IWD employees, including research into job placement programs, unemployment services and veterans services. Koonce said the only time a person would be required to travel to one of the regional offices would be for training programs for potential careers.
Koonce said the system is still in its infancy, so feedback is scarce. However, she said that the system was designed to be very user friendly and accessible to those not in possession of strong computer skills.
“We’re just getting them up and running,” Koonce said. “We haven’t had any complaints on the use of it. It’s set up very intuitively.”
She said that the programs will be question and answer based and will help steer users toward the answers they need.
Avoiding the closure of the IWD offices was a goal of both parties during the previous legislative session. To that end, a bipartisan bill was passed that would allow the offices to remain open for another year.
"We passed overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation to save the Workforce Offices," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in a statement. "With more than 100,000 Iowans out of work, this is no time to close offices that assist those searching for jobs, preparing for interviews and improving their skills, while also helping businesses find qualified employees."
However, Governor Terry Branstad overrode the measure, using a line-item veto. Gov. Branstad said that keeping the offices open would actually be detrimental to the IWD, as it would prevent them from using the streamlined access point system.
“This item would prohibit Iowa Workforce Development from putting forth an enhanced delivery system that broadens access to Iowans across the state,” Gov. Branstad said in a communication to Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. “In order to develop a sustainable delivery system, in light of continually fluctuating federal funding, the department must put forth a system that embraces the use of technology while providing enhanced benefits through maximum efficiencies.”
Gov. Branstad added that under his direction, hundreds of access points would be set up by the end of fiscal year 2012.
Koonce said that given the budgetary motivations behind the switch, it is unlikely that either the Maquoketa or Clinton office will reopen in the future. The statewide transition will be complete by December and will affect up to 95 state employees.
A call to the Clinton IWD office was directed to Mike Witt, manager of the Davenport office that will eventually serve as a regional office for the area.
Witt said he could not comment at this time.
CORRECTION; Access points have not been established at the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and the Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center. That information, published in today's print edition, was incorrect. We are working to get the list of access centers for an updated story.