Workforce system planning for recovery and reopening

Companies impacted by COVID-19 are encouraged to share their experiences

Unemployment graphic
Darcy Hoffman
DARCY HOFFMAN Workforce Southwest Washington

In the eight weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our business community and workforce have faced unprecedented challenges, from social distancing to an order to “stay home.” The impacts have been enormous.

Since the week ending March 7, more than 787,533 Washingtonians have filed for unemployment insurance with nearly $1.5 billion in benefits being paid out, according to Employment Security Department data released on April 30.

Companies have been eager for assistance and our business services team has provided information and guidance directly to more than 60 local companies and indirectly to hundreds through town halls and virtual convenings. Many of the questions have involved unemployment insurance and other programs for both businesses and their employees.

In Washington, the Employment Security Department (ESD) administers all Unemployment Insurance programs. They have gone from a record low unemployment rate to an all-time high. ESD is working as quickly as possible to onboard new claims agents and update their technology systems to accommodate the sudden spike in claims and new rules around who is eligible to receive unemployment. Staff at our local WorkSource offices are working nights and weekends to assist as many people as possible.

Along with our workforce system partners, we are working hard to keep businesses open and people employed. And for those that have lost their job, connecting them to work, resources and information as fast as we can.

On our website we’ve posted resources for businesses and individuals which we will continue to update as new information becomes available.

Numerous companies are hiring right now and open positions are advertised on our local WorkSource website so job seekers can get directly connected to these opportunities.

While we don’t know how long current safety measures will be in effect, WSW is moving forward to begin planning and preparing for reopening and recovery.

On Friday, May 1, we provided guidance to Southwest Washington Contractors Association (SWCA) members during a virtual meeting on what it means to bring back temporarily laid off workers and some of the challenges that may come with this as they get back to work and implement Gov. Jay Inslee’s Phase 1 Construction Restart COVID-19 Job Site Requirements.

Last week we launched a survey to gather information from the business community to help inform our investments and strategies going forward. Early survey results indicate most companies believe our on-the-job training program could help them rehire more workers faster. We encourage you to be heard and complete the brief survey.

To ensure the voice of business is prioritized as we coordinate our regional workforce development response, we are hosting a Workforce Development Recovery + Resiliency virtual conversation series. Our first conversation was May 5. We shared economic data and our strategic response to-date. And gained valuable input from business leaders on what they’re encountering and what resource they might need to reopen and recover. Additional conversations will take place in May with municipal leaders, community organizations and higher education.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be rolling out various workforce initiatives to help our businesses and community reopen, recover and move forward. We look forward to your participation. Please reach out if we can be of assistance.

Darcy Hoffman, Director of Business Services for Workforce Southwest Washington, can be reached at, or 360-608-4949.

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