Port Arthur, Mid County celebrate news of childcare funding to boost needed workforce

Published 12:30 am Thursday, September 23, 2021

Many local people on the Texas Workforce Commission waitlist looking for job placement are handicapped by a lack of ability to pay for quality childcare.

ChildCareGroup Director Kimberly Purnell said a new program benefits folks struggling with those concerns.

“It is a great idea that the Texas Workforce Commission has decided to help these industries because they are short workers or maybe their workers can’t work that many hours due to lack of childcare,” she said.

The Service Industry Recovery program focuses on low-income workers in specific service-related industries whose job cannot be done remotely.

Approved industries include arts, entertainment and recreation; accommodation and food service; and retail trade.

Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas is teaming with local childcare facilities and employers to ensure those who qualify for assistance are able to register and benefit from the funding.

Purnell said the application process is easy and can be done online. The Workforce Commission even provides a form for employers to verify employment.

“We are always here to help. The online process helps us get it done very quickly for (applicants) because they are in dire need for help,” Purnell said.

Individuals in Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties are encouraged to contact the Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas Centers, toll-free, at 1-877-834-5627, to start the eligibility process.

The funding is time-limited and childcare costs are provided to qualified individuals for up to 12 months.

The Service Industry Recovery (SIR) Child Care Enrollment Form is available at setworks.org.

Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Pat Avery said businesses have expressed to the chamber they have closed earlier due to the lack of availability with workers.

“This in turn has caused business owners to make less income for their own families,” Avery said. “One good thing that has come from a lack of workers however, has been more thinking ‘outside the box’ with how they run their businesses. Bad times and bad economies always spark great innovation. For the most part, business owners would prefer to have more workers in general.”

Avery said the program will reestablish a sense of normalcy for children’s developmental needs, getting them back in a place of a learning environment.

Restaurateur Al Judice IV said Judice’s 1927 in Nederland has been lucky to maintain most of its staff despite an industry-wide worker shortage.

“I know some people who can’t find a rabbit in a hole,” he said. “They have had major problems. It has not been that horrible for us.”

Diana LaBorde President/CEO of Nederland Chamber of Commerce, said many local businesses adjusted their operating hours due to the lack of workers.

“Even worse, some have been forced to close their doors for good,” she said. “The workforce is stressed, much in part to the lack of available child care or the funds for it. It seems to be an impossible situation, so this program should address both sides of that problem.”

LaBorde hopes industry workers utilize the child care services, meaning childcare facilities hire more help to care for the children.

“This could be a game changer for the community,” she said. “We have enjoyed the benefit of having more than a few new restaurants open in our area with more scheduled to open in the near future. We must be able to offer a strong workforce if we are going to continue to attract these new businesses to our area.”

The funding is specifically aimed at helping individuals get back to work, reduce the worker shortage in the service industry and provide quality care for children in Southeast Texas.

“We expect employers to be able to fill job vacancies at a much higher rate as these individuals place their children in care,” said Mary Hammon, Workforce Solutions executive director.

Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas brings together a myriad of programs for easy access for employers and job seekers.

For additional information, please contact the Board’s administrative offices at 409-719-4750.