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WJBD - Local News - Centralia Unemployment Office to Close in March

Centralia Unemployment Office to Close in March

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has announced plans to close the Centralia unemployment office in mid-March.  The office is one of seven statewide scheduled for closure.  Director Jay Rowell in a prepared statement said the cuts are needed because of the improving state economy that has reduced the number of unemployment insurance claims.  The reduced volume is expected to cut the flow of federal money into the agency  by $11-million dollars.  

Centralia City Manager Dan Ramey says the Mayor has already set up a meeting with Rowell on January 24th to see if anything can be done to save the office and obtain more information on the criteria used in making the decision.  "Due to lease agreements and also traffic counts, etc. and the proximity to the regional offices which Mt. Vernon is one as part of their consideration and so there will be a meeting in the near future with IDES to determine if there's anything we get to sway them, especially with our high unemployment rate that we have in Centralia and in Marion County", said Ramey.  Ramey says seven to eight employees at the Centralia office would lose their jobs with the closure.  

Centralia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Kelsheimer says he's baffled by the decision, noting the Centralia and Marion County area have not seen the job recovery and continue to have double digit unemployment.  "Unfortunately Marion County's has not and it's my understanding that the office would be closed and the Mt. Vernon office would be open.  It further confuses me because the Mt. Vernon unemployment rate is a full three-points lower than ours.  So if their rate is three-points lower than ours, the need is here, not there, and having people going from this area having to go the expense and the inconvience to travel to Mt. Vernon certainly makes no sense", said Kelsheimer.  

The closures would cut 192 positions statewide.   Rowell says in the coming weeks impacted employees will be notified and given their options for other state employment opportunties.  It is his understanding that many, if not most, of the affected employees may locate to other positions.  Rowell adds the department have non-scheduled over 200 Intermittent staff, drastically reduced overtime pay and cut numerous other costs.  

Rowell notes over the next 90 days Congress is scheduled to make additional decisions regarding funding during the sequestration and the debt ceiling debates.  He reports those decisions could also impact the agency.  While unemployment is down statewide, Rowell says unemployment insurance demands remain 38 percent higher than prior to the recession.  The Murphysboro and East St. Louis offices in Southern Illinois are also on the closure list.  

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