Program aims to help businesses and low income workers alike

BUCKHANNON — Community partners who can provide employment and training opportunities for low-income adults needing help are the focus of one state program.
Kenneth W. Lake, job developer for the  Office of Children’s and Family Policy Bureau of Children and Families — Department of Health and Human Resources, spoke Tuesday at Buckhannon Rotary Club and Monday at Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce.
“We are in the process of trying to join hands with those out in the community to be able to provide employment and to be able to provide training for people in low-income and help them get over the barriers that keep them from being employed,” Lake said.
West Virginia Works is based on two over-arching goals, according to Lake. Its goals include one, assisting economically dependent and at risk families in their efforts to become self-supportive and second, enhancing the well-being of the child.
Each adult and every emancipated minor who receives the benefit must be involved in a work requirement with a minimum set of work hours.
“If any time they fail to get their hours in, they fail to get their assistance,” he said.
For example a single parent with children under 6 should do 20 hours a week in work or training requirements.
The Employer Incentive Program provides a structured skill  training and the opportunity to improve their skill level.
“The goal is to provide a subsidized training and employment for clients hired by either a public or private employer,” he said. “The key word there is training.”
Another goal is for those in the program to have an opportunity to become employed for those who are marginally employable.
Standards for an EIP contract call for it to be written for 200 to 600 hours and the maximum EIP payment allowed to the employer is 50 percent of the participant’s hourly rate of pay.
“That gives them a chance to take them through this training program,” he said.
Employer Subsidy Program is a statewide subsidized employment placement program with placements for up to six months. Reimbursement will be 100 percent of the individual’s wages.
“You will actually pay them upfront, send us a bill and we will either pay back the 50 percent for the EIP or 100 percent for the ESP,” he said.
Both EIP or ESP may be written for one job slot only, according to Lake.
The starting wage must be equal to or above the federal minimum wage under federal law.
In West Virginia, the state minimum wage is higher so the program says the employers must go with that minimum wage versus the federal minimum wage.
The employment cannot be temporary or seasonal to qualify. Another requirement is the employer must not have employees in lay-off status.
TANF participants must not provide more than 50 percent of the employers’ labor force and daily attendance records must be kept for each client.  The employer must pay wages and not commission, or if commission is paid, that is responsibility of employer.
There are also stipulations in place so employers do not take advantage by cycling through employees every six months.
“We’re not going to supply your pay for your employees,” he said. “The goal is they will stay and work.”
If employers are interested, they should contact their local DHHR office.
Jody Light, owner of Classic Baskets and Gifts, said she used this program nearly eight to 10 years ago and found a “wonderful” employee for three years.

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