BELLE GLADE, Fla. - Areas of the Glades still have some of the highest unemployment rates in all of Palm Beach County. As many as 47% of resident are out of work in some communities. While President Obama is unfolding his jobs plan, U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings (D) is in Belle Glade taking a closer look at what's being done on a local level to send people back to work.
This morning, Representative Hastings and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer toured the Palm Beach County Workforce Alliance Center in Belle Glade to meet with job seekers and business owners. Belle Glade is one of the poorest areas of the county with unemployment well above Palm Beach County's jobless rate of 11%. While the county's three Workforce Alliance Centers in Belle Glade, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach have been among the most successful in the state in helping people find work, Representative Hastings said much still needs to be done.
"While the country was in what was identified by economists and politicians as a recession, the Glades area, generally speaking, has been in a continuing recession."
Representative Hastings is promoting President Obama's American Jobs Act as a way to bring more jobs to the area. He says the plan would increase investments, cut taxes for many Americans and put people to work building roads, railways, bridges and schools.
"The quickest way to address it is through infrastructure projects and that would be my hope that we would be able to bring here to the Glades and to Palm Beach County and throughout the state of Florida," he said.
One of the biggest challenges is still ahead for the Glades' economy. In December, the Glades Correctional Institution will close, shutting more than 300 people out of their jobs. Natekeshia Padgett, a Belle Glade resident and single mother of three, used to work there as a corrections officer. She got the job through the Workforce Alliance Career Center after completing her GED there. She's now working with the center to update her resume to find a new job.
"It calmed me down, knowing that I could come here, get on the computer and find jobs and be able to use the fax machine and the copy machine to do anything I need to do," she said.
Padgett is one of about 500 people who come to the Belle Glade Workforce Alliance Career Center every month. Gerard Genovese, the vice president of business services with Workforce Alliance, said the center has been working with the Glades Correctional Institution for the last five months to help them place workers.
"When people are downsized, we look at ways to help them transition," he explained. "In terms of transitioning where they are to another job. Obviously, you look at a skill set of somebody in a correctional institution and their skills can be transferred."
Representative Steny Hoyer remarked that the center is giving workers hope.
"We can focus on making sure that young people, and not-so-young people, who have been displaced have the technical skills, have the awareness to do things that the job market is now requiring," he said.
Hastings and Hoyer also met with local business owners at the center. They said they want to work with the business to help them get the resources they need to hire more people.