BISMARCK, N.D. — Faced with an expected spike in unemployment claims due largely to a slowdown of oil drilling, North Dakota’s employment agency on Tuesday made an emergency request of $240,000 to maintain staffing through January, the agency’s busiest month.
Cheri Giesen, who heads Job Service North Dakota, which administers state unemployment benefits and workforce training programs, told the state Emergency Commission that the agency is expecting to see unemployment insurance claims jump from 700 to 2,500 in January due to layoffs of seasonal workers and those losing jobs in western North Dakota’s oil patch due to a drop in drilling activity and low crude prices.
Giesen said that without the funding, those filing attempting to file claims will face “longer wait times” and delays in getting unemployment checks.
The Job Service has just over 200 employees and two-year budget of about $65 million. About 97 percent of its funding comes from the federal government and it faces a $4 million shortfall this fiscal year.
Giesen said the additional state funding would get the agency through January. She said the agency has employed a number of cost-cutting measures to make up for the federal shortfall, including approving buyouts for 20 employees and limiting travel. The agency also is pushing online registration to ease the workload at its 16 sites throughout the state, she said.
The agency also plans to reduce it full-time workforce by 10 percent and lay off 20 temporary employees if more federal funding doesn’t come by February. Shuttering some agency offices also is an option, she said.
To exceed the spending and employment limits set by the Legislature, North Dakota agencies must get permission from the state Emergency Commission and a separate legislative committee called the Budget Section.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple chairs the six-member Emergency Commission, which includes the secretary of state, the chairmen of the state House and Senate appropriations committees and the majority leaders of the House and Senate. The panel narrowly approved the request 3-2 on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, was absent.
Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, said augmenting federal funding with state funding “is really going down the wrong path.” He and Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, voted against the funding.
Dalrymple described the Job Service’s situation as an emergency.
“This one thing we can do to help mitigate the situation,” the governor said. “I think it’s appropriate,”
The Budget Section is slated to vote on the emergency funding next week. The panel is comprised of the chambers’ floor leaders and the members of appropriations committees, which are in charge of crafting state agency budgets.
This article was written by James Macpherson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.