Sequestration cuts could impact labor staff who help unemployed

State labor rapid response team dealing with uncertainty of own jobs

Published  6:01 PM HST Feb 26, 2013
HONOLULU -

Time is running out for Tesoro to find a buyer for its refinery.

If that doesn''t happen soon, 200 workers stand to lose their jobs.

Tesoro is working to help place its workers, by organizing a job fair.

And Tuesday afternoon, the labor department’s rapid response team began meeting with refinery employees to explain the in's and out's of unemployment.

"They are not laid off yet but this is good we like to work with them early on," said Elaine Young administrator of the labor department’s workforce division.

The state has also reached out to to Sears who says 327 workers could be affected by a decision to close its Ala Moana Center store in June-- months earlier than originally announced.

"We will have to wait to find out more about what their needs will be" said Young.

That includes determining who qualifies for unemployment and whether they are interested in future full-time or part-time work.

While the labor team moves to respond to the planned layoffs, many of the programs to help displaced workers rely on federal funds.

With sequestration looming, those programs could face cuts.

"We will definitely be affected and if you talk to my director he will tell you that 86 to 87  percent of our program is federally funded," said Young.

That sets up an awkward scenario, workers who help people who lose their jobs are now worried about their own jobs.

In Young's division alone, that's 106 people.

The department can’t say exactly how many positions could be eliminated.

The administration set aside $25 million as a contingency for the across-the- board cuts.

State budget director Kalbert Young said departments who are in line for cuts are being asked to send in their budget requests by next week.

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