Dallas County ordered businesses closed which may cost jobs. But the county is also helping displaced workers navigate unemployment benefits that may be available to them.
Marine veteran Fabian Beleche was at Dallas County’s Workforce Solutions office in North Dallas Tuesday, confronting a different kind of enemy in his job search.
“I’ve been finding most of the employers have postponed any interviewing just until further notice. Another thing that I’ve been finding, is that networking events have stopped until further notice,” Beleche said.
He has experience as a hotel manager, but even with qualifications, he said this is a terrible time to be between jobs in the travel or hospitality industries.
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“You’re looking forward to meeting face to face, so that kind of stopped, for a real good reason. You’ve got to be very careful about everything, everywhere you go now,” he said.
Unemployment applications are made entirely online to the state of Texas. The Dallas County job finding agency Workforce Solutions has staff members and computers that can also help displaced workers apply for unemployment assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We realize that that fear is real. We understand that the uncertainty of the times that we’re going through right now is a real thing," center manager Enrique Rodriguez said. "So what we’d like to do is be a support mechanism. We’d like to be here to answer any questions you might have as it relates to unemployment."
Rodriguez runs the Workforce Solutions office on Alpha Road at Preston in North Dallas. It is one of 10 Workforce Solutions offices in Dallas County.
“And you are able to use our computers, you are able to use our telephone lines, create faxes, send them in as needed, and make copies of your resume to get you ready for your job interview,” Rodriguez said.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said confirmation of nine new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday supported his Monday decision to close restaurant dining rooms, bars and other businesses with close people to people contact.
“Absolutely necessary steps. There are no easy choices,” he said.
The new cases include five that are believed to be the result of community spread, which means the illness is moving freely in Dallas County and not just coming from out-of-town travelers. The total number of cases in Dallas County reached 28 Tuesday, the most in the state. And Jenkins said more are likely.
“We’ve got a quarter of a million people in this city that work for a living, but can’t afford health insurance,” Jenkins said.
The county’s top elected official said he felt sick about ordering business closures that he knew would also negatively impact people and jobs.
“We do all that we can to help them, but it’s really going to come down to the federal government, through the state unemployment office,” Jenkins said.
An economic aid package pending in the U.S. Congress includes benefits for displaced workers.
At Workforce Solutions, Rodriguez said some new jobs are still available, like home delivery work.
“We got a lot of calls recently about food delivery services. How do I go about getting those jobs?," she said.
His office had plenty of hand sanitizer available Tuesday, but did not offer hand shakes. People kept their distance from one another as they used visitor spaces.
Rodriguez said that prior training requirements to be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have been temporarily waived to help people get food immediately. SNAP is a program available from Workforce Solutions.