Valley employment opportunities program

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno County has updated its job's program for the low-income. The new employment opportunities program provides a subsidy to businesses who hire certain workers. It is not only providing people with much needed job skills but helping businesses owners cut their cost.

Cordella Dixon Hackett has been in the child care business for 20 years.She helped design her latest venture, The Better Choice Pre-school 11 years ago, she will tell you running a small business means doing everything.

" Most of the time I'm the worker, I pretty much cover the entire building," said Hackett.

Hackett says one of the biggest challenges business owners face is not only finding the right employee, but paying for that worker.

" I would say close to 80 per cent paying is paying out salaries that are where the main cost goes to but also with your worker comp, your liability insurance," Hackett said.

To help defray the cost of, Hackett is participating in the new employment opportunities program offered by the department of social services. Neo, which is an update of the departments old employment training program, pays the cost of an employee for up to $800 a month for six months.The benefit is now available to all businesses, but workers must come from a targeted group; veterans, the long-term unemployed, someone on food stamps or in the state's CalWORKS program.

" Obviously our primary goal is to help our participating clients become self-reliant and get a job, get some work experience," said Christina Balbas Director of DDS.

Clients like Chia Xiong who has always wanted to work with children

" I think the experience is good because you get to work hands on with the children and interact with the children," said Xiong

The program is also of great benefit to employers . Hackett says receiving a stipend to help pay a workers salary cuts down on her operating cost and allows her to grow her business.

"If they match a salary that's money be used in other areas of the facility to help offset the cost of liability insurance, workers comp," Hackett said.

DSS works closely with business to make sure they get the right employee, assigning a job specialist to work with the company. Pre-screening and getting candidates job ready. Christine Balbas says it is important that employers know that many of those in the program now. Have a strong work ethic.

"These are people who are trying to support their families, many of them have an extensive work experience but for whatever reason are unemployed now," said Balbas. "They run the gament from very low skills or no skill to masters level and extensive work experience."

Officials with the department of social services say due to the recession many more people may qualify for the program. But because they have not traditionally sought aid from the county they may not know about the program. You can go online to see if you qualify.

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