State closing several WIN Job Centers

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security is closing 13 WIN Job centers next month, including three in Northeast Mississippi.
In addition, full-time centers in Iuka and Newton will begin operating part time.
Centers that will close June 21 include Bay Springs, Belzoni, Fulton, Hancock County, Hazlehurst, Marshall-Benton, Kosciusko, Philadelphia, Prentiss, Ripley, Rolling Fork, Tunica and Yazoo City.
The centers in Ripley, Fulton and Marshall-Benton are now open part time. MDES said job-seekers can visit other nearby WIN Job Centers after the centers close. For Ripley, the nearest centers are in Corinth, New Albany and Tupelo; in Fulton the nearest centers are in Amory or Tupelo. For those at Marshall-Benton, the choice is Oxford or DeSoto County.
The WIN Job Centers, operated by the state, are funded with federal dollars by the U.S. Department of Labor, which has made budget cuts due to sequestration.
The purpose of the centers is to match job-seekers with companies looking to hire and to help unemployed people apply for assistive services.
The other 41 centers in the state will remain open.
“We’re definitely going to lose a lot when we lose our WIN center,” said Fulton Mayor Paul Walker, who added that the center had been a “tremendous” help to the community.
Les Range, a MDES spokesman, said the agency decided which centers to close based on volume. The Fulton center, which is closing, saw 715 customers and placed 81 people in jobs between July 1, 2012, and May 30, 2013, compared to 11,099 customers and 2,137 placements in the Tupelo center.
In a statement released by MDES on Thursday, the agency said despite the closures it would “continue to provide services to people looking for good jobs and to businesses looking for qualified workers.”
According to the MDES, 25 staff members will be laid off and 72 will have their hours reduced from 39 hours a week to 35 hours per week effective July 1.
Range said the agency had suspected cuts to funding were coming and in response have invested more in technology to improve customer access to resources by phone and their website, mdes.ms.gov.
sarah.robinson@journalinc.com