DHR JOBS program sees success in Chilton

Published 1:59 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

Helping community members achieve a stable financial position through steady employment is the focus for Chilton County DHR’s JOBS program.

This program is open to those in the Family Assistance program, which provides some funding for qualifying families to cover expenses that cannot be paid for through food stamps.

FA eligibility is determined based on very low income maximums and additional factors.

“It is not a lot of money,” JOBS program case manager Missy Brewer said. “For a family of two, a mother and one child, it is $190 a month that they are eligible to receive.”

The JOBS program helps in overcoming these obstacles financially, including money for gas to and from work, and connecting them to services. Brewer said this financial assistance is not counted as income, so the other assistance they are receiving would remain the same.

“I like to say this is a safety net, not a hammock,” Brewer said. “You cannot get comfortable. This is a safety net … our clients have used it as such. They get a job. They get help with daycare. They get help with transportation. They get on their feet and their case closes, and they only come back to us if they need us.”

The program has been successful because it creates an individualized plan for each person.

“Once they are referred to me, I do an initial assessment with them where we just look at their strengths, work history, education … and we look at barriers — Do they need help with transportation? Do they need help with day care? What is the obstacle that they face that keeps them from finding or keeping a job?” Brewer said.

Those who report to the JOBS program that they have a job within 10 days of being hired can continue to receive FA benefits regardless of their income for 12 months. Brewer said this can be helpful to pay past due bills and bridge the gap from when someone is hired to their first paycheck.

Individuals can come back to the program again if needed. However, time in the program is calculated, and individuals are no longer eligible if they have received five years’ worth of assistance in their lifetime, Brewer said.

“Recently, within the past couple of years, we do not see a lot of clients who hit that 60 months,” Brewer, who has worked in the program since 2012, said.

Right now in Chilton County, there are 48 families in the FA program. Brewer explained that 75% of these families automatically qualify because the adult has opened their home and is caring for a relative’s child. In these cases, the money is only for the child.

When an adult is receiving benefits as well as the children, then the adult is required to participate in the JOBS program. There are 12 people in the JOBS program. Brewer said this is a lot lower than some previous years, such as 2007 when she had 100 clients.

“The past couple of years our caseloads have been very, very low, but it is because the unemployment rate is so low,” Brewer said.

In the past few months, Chilton County’s unemployment has stayed slightly higher than 2%. Many entry level jobs that are hiring are paying more.

Brewer thinks the numbers may also be low because some are unaware of the program.

The JOBS program partners with Kelsey’s Place to provide people with job readiness training, such as interview skills and resumes, when needed and The Clanton Career Center. For those needing to build job experience to have a resume, the JOBS program can set up at a job site where they can learn needed skills, similar to an unpaid internship.

“It’s your foot in the door that you normally would not get,” Brewer said.

The job site does have the option to hire the person.

Brewer said this option has not been needed recently, but the Humane Society of Chilton County, YMCA of Chilton County and Community Action were three partners in the past.

Brewer encouraged anyone who needed help to apply to the FA program at one.alabama.gov.