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Cuts have taken a toll on employment centers

By now most everyone is familiar with the term “sequestration,” and some people are feeling its effects. In Mississippi sequestration has led to the closing of 12 WIN Job Centers and three becoming part-time centers. However, 43 WIN Job Centers remain open full time. The job centers are staffed and operated by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

As background, MDES executive director Mark Henry explains that although MDES is a state agency, its entire operating budget comes from the federal government. “The largest recent budget was $96 million in fiscal year 2007; this year the budget is $55.6 million,” he said. “Our next budget, which begins October 1, will be $52.2 million.”

Unless Congress changes the law, Henry expects the MDES budget will go through nine more rounds of cuts over the next nine years. “We don’t subscribe all of the job center closings to sequestration,” he said. “Obviously, those budget reductions mean MDES had to make changes to get our spending in line with the budget.”

winThose changes included laying off 20 employees and reducing the hours of 78 employees in addition to the closure of 12 WIN centers and reducing the hours of three more. “The centers that were closed were chosen on the basis of a review that began in August 2012,” Henry said.

“We asked if the centers had the appropriate staff level, the necessity of each job function, how busy the centers are, how close the locations are to other job centers and how many employees each center can afford to employ.”

He points out that Mississippi residents can obtain every service of the WIN Job Centers that were closed by calling toll free 888-844-3577 weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Services are also available 24 hours a day on the website www.mdes.ms.gov. “Through that telephone number and online, people can get anything they can get at an office,” he said. “Also, the 43 centers that remain open are spaced evenly all over the state. As far as I can tell, services have not changed.”

The department continues to work to hold down spending. For instance, landscaping costs were reduced from $70,000 a year to $17,000 each year, and it has stopped paying dues to a number of professional organizations.

“We’re finding ways that don’t affect services but do save money,” Henry said. “We still help Mississippians get jobs and help businesses find employees.”

The WIN Job Centers going to part-time status are Iuka, Newton and Philadelphia. Those closed include Bay Springs, Belzoni, Fulton, Hazlehurst, Holly Springs, Kosciusko, Prentiss, Ripley, Rolling Fork, Tunica, Waveland and Yazoo City.

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