State Workers

State workers get aid to traverse joblessness

A table was loaded with folders marked “Washington State 2009 Layoff Information and Resources,” and another with the WorkSource logo on it.

Randy Gilyard of Lacey took both before taking a seat in the classroom at The Evergreen State College. He recognized a co-worker near by.

“Sorry to see you here,” he said.

“Sorry to see you,” she replied.

About 75 state and college employees sat through a three-hour crash course in unemployment Monday. The Department of Personnel has put on 10 of the events this year, answering questions from public employees as the recession eats away at state programs and jobs.

“Losing a job can feel like losing a family member. You go through the process of denial, anger and confusion,” agency layoff coordinator Teresa Dillon told the audience.

What followed was a lengthy explanation of the benefits available to workers who lose their positions, including general programs such as unemployment insurance to help make up for lost wages, and job-hunting help at WorkSource centers.

And it covered benefits particular to state employment, which provides paychecks to 21,700 people in Thurston County, not including two public colleges. With about $4 billion in cuts to the next two-year budget, state officials expect to see 2,000 to 3,000 layoffs in state agencies and colleges.

Gilyard, who works for the Department of Social and Health Services, said he already had been advised he will lose his job. He and others were on hand Monday to learn how to navigate the complex rules of government assistance.

General state government workers should sign up both for their agency layoff list and the statewide layoff list, Dillon advised. Managers who do have positions to fill will check the list for qualified former state employees first, she said.

“The governor has make it very clear to agencies that they need to look at the layoff list and give those priority before looking outside the state,” Dillon said.

Eligibility on the lists lasts for two years. But not every state employee can land on them – executives and members of the Washington Management Service don’t qualify. Dillon advised exempt employees and those in classified positions to also sign up for the General Government Transition Pool, a database that hiring managers can search to find people with certain skills.

Representatives from WorkSource, the Employment Security Department’s unemployment insurance program, the Department of Retirement Systems, and the Health Care Authority were on hand.

“I thought it might be just a rehash of some of the broad information I’ve already gotten, but this was good, with more detail,” said Gilyard afterward. “I don’t feel like I’m searching in the dark like I did.”

The Department of Personnel held similar seminars in 1993 and in the last recession several years ago, Dillon said.

“We want everybody where they can come to one place, so they can get the information,” she said. “There’s obviously a lot of sources involved.”

Dillon added she’d be happy to be out of reasons to have the layoff lessons, but she expects to continue hosting them through the summer as agencies work through their budgets and make decisions on cuts.