While many businesses are struggling during COVID-19 closings and restrictions on operations, multiple government and nonprofit organizations are working to supply support.
One such organization is the Clackamas Workforce Partnership.
It's a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to building a strong work force in Clackamas County, through public-private partnerships. The organization can connect employers to multiple resources to help them retain workers and preserve their businesses in the Clackamas County area.
"The Oregon Employment Department has received 396,000 initial claims since COVID-19 business closures began in mid-March," according to a May 14 report from the department.
Acting in crisis
One resource, which is offered through a partnership with Clackamas Community College, is Rapid Response. Rapid Response helps prevent and respond during times of unexpected work force changes and economic hardship. Funded through the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Worker Adjustment and Training Notification (WARN) Act, Rapid Response helps employers avert layoffs, fund and supply new technology and training to adapt during crisis, and funds to help with facilities maintenance at no charge to the employer or employees.
"We work with employers to not only get the equipment they need, but provide training," said Brent Balog, partnership program manager.
Keeping payroll whole
The partnership also works to help employers implement Work Share through the Oregon Employment Department. Work Share is a form of partial unemployment that allows employers to leverage unemployment insurance to retain employees. Work Share will pay the difference of payroll for employees who've had their wages decreased by more than 20%.
"Work Share is a valuable resource that allows employers to avoid the costs of hiring and retraining new staff, avoid laying off employees during slow times or unexpected circumstances, reward worker loyalty, and enables a business to continue operating efficiently and provide high quality services," Balog said. "This helps employees by allowing them to continue receiving benefits through their employer, maintain a stable income stream, and avoid the stresses typically associated with layoffs and job searches."
"We've functioned mostly as a funder and support agency," Balog said. "We've been granting financial assistance while working to secure more funds and advocate for nonprofit communities. They're doing a lot of the human-focused work right now. Our businesses aren't going to be able to bounce back from this if our families aren't supported."
Balog noted that the partnership is working toward greater alignment between organizations in the area to make them "more efficient and responsive" in a crisis.
"Something we'd like to see come from this is a greater investment in nonprofit and community groups from the state and local government," Balog said. "We want to create braided funding streams and data-sharing and see more flexibility in funds that are used to help the in-need community. We're being very intentional about working with organizations and looking at how we work together as providers in the county now to respond to the needs of the COVID-19 crisis. (We're) also using this as a learning opportunity to assess how we could work better moving forward. We need to work together when aiming for the same goal to utilize funds more efficiently. There's a need for us to work together and communicate in different ways."
Additional sources for resources
• Business Oregon has also published a list of additional resources at oregon4biz.com/Coronavirus-Information.
• The Oregon Employment Department and WorkSource Oregon websites have information on additional supports, including how to help employees claim unemployment insurance if they are laid off and where to find people currently looking for work for those businesses who are still hiring.
• Small Business Administration Loans and other support programs can be applied for online at covid19relief.sba.gov. Other information about additional SBA programs (debt relief, bridge loans and more) is available online at sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources.
• Greater Portland Inc. offers local and regional resources and information on state and federal resources; the agency maintains a database of information and aid available to employers. Worksystems Inc., is a similar organization serving the Gresham area.
• The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has an online guide on new aid programs (forgivable loans, new tax policies, sick leave, etc.), frequently asked questions and a breakdown of COVID-19 business aid programs.
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