State closes Job Service Lewistown

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

Job Service Lewistown Manager Ryan Ballegooyen says staff were notified Monday about the office’s fall closure, which will move one staff member down the hall to Region 6 HRDC. Ballegooyen stands at the current Job Service Lewistown office while Region 6 HRDC Fiscal Officer Cathy Seilstad, left, and Executive Director Barb Gilskey, right, stand outside of their office Thursday.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

Job Service Lewistown is closing its doors Oct. 31, according to a Thursday announcement from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Communications Director Jake Troyer said the shutdown, a departmental response to federal funding cuts, is one of four across the state.

The Anaconda, Hamilton and Dillon locations are also closing, but Troyer reported the Central Montana office was slightly different.

“Lewistown is a unique case because we have a partnership with the Region 6 HRDC office,” he said. “There will be a staff member who will be working out of that office.”

Lewistown Job Service Manager Ryan Ballegooyen reported the closure would cut staff from three to one.

“The existing staff are eligible to apply for the position that will be open,” he said. “We have a lot of specifics to be determined, such as what the new Job Service will look like, but my guess is it will be a very similar to what we have now, just down to one person.”

Ballegooyen said the current plan hopes to house that staff member at Region 6 HRDC. A nonprofit helping connect low-income people to assistance programs, the organization offers some programs that complement Job Service, according to Ballegooyen.

“We both offer education and training programs, and [HRDC] is located right across the hall,” he said. “We each know about the programs the other offers, so we make a lot of referrals to each other.”

HRDC Executive Director Barb Gilskey confirmed she was talking to the Labor Department about hosting a Job Service employee. While she is still researching the logistics, Gilskey supports the idea.

“We felt Job Service was important to the community,” she said. “We are 100 miles away from another Job Service center.”

Troyer said the downsizing of the Lewistown office, and Job Service Montana, comes after large cuts in the program’s federal funding.

“Since the beginning of the year, the department has been openly discussing and researching the need to look at how Job Service Montana delivers service to customers across the state,” he said. “Part of that evaluation was the decreases in federal funding.”

The Labor Department’s Workforce Services Administrator, Scott Eychner, reported the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act made up a large portion of the Job Service’s budget.

The national budget cut funding to the federal Department of Labor by 21 percent. Within that cut, the budget specifies significant decreases in federal job training support. The budget states the cut is meant to shift “more responsibility for funding these services to States, localities and employers.”

Eychner summarized the final effect.

“In a nutshell, we’re getting less money, so we can’t continue,” he said.

This is the latest in a series of departmental changes triggered by funding decreases, according to Eychner. Job Service Montana closed three locations earlier this year, and has not been filling open positions.

“Over the last year, we’ve cut about 20 positions generally just from Job Service offices across the state,” he said.

Job Service Lewistown will remain staffed and open until Oct. 31, and Ballegooyen said the location will offer its current services until it closes.

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