As national jobless claims skyrocket, and local support staff are swamped as they work to help those who have lost their jobs to COVID-19, resources are available, but they may be limited.
In an effort to consolidate information, the News&Guide has put together this list of local and national outlets for people looking for assistance. If you’ve found resources besides these, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
We’ll vet sources and update this list as needed. Stay safe out there.
Wyoming Unemployment Insurance
Workers who have lost jobs through layoffs may be eligible for unemployment insurance, which is distributed through the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. The local office, the Jackson Workforce Center, is available to help applicants, but cannot process claims itself.
Colleen Dubbe, the center’s manager, recommended people apply online at WYUI.WYO.gov. She also asked people with questions to call, rather than visit the office, which recently limited the number of people there to 10 in an effort to protect staff and applicants.
The Workforce Center’s number is 733-4091. The Afton office can be reached at 886-9260.
Dubbe said people applying online should have their “work history” ready, noting that “W2s don’t necessarily help” because they don’t break income down by quarter as unemployment does.
Work history information includes the applicants' last day of work, the name of their employers and things like employers' phone numbers and addresses. People with Wyoming employers will likely have information in the state unemployment database, but having that information available is particularly important for those trying to request relief for lost wages out of state.
Changes to unemployment are pending at the federal and state level. For now, the maximum weekly unemployment benefit is $508, and claimants can maintain the benefit for 26 weeks. Once opened, claims will stay active for a calendar year.
To qualify, those who apply before the end of March will need to have made a minimum of $3,800 between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019. Those who apply between April 1 and June 30 will have had to made the same between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.
A guidebook for those seeking Wyoming unemployment insurance can be found here.
One22’s Financial Relief Awards
One22 is also offering Financial Relief Awards to those affected by the coronavirus, but funds are limited. People without other financial resources — unemployment benefits, access to savings, family support, etc. — and those with large household sizes will be prioritized.
“The more mouths to feed, the more need there is,” One22 Executive Director Sharel Lund said.
The One22 program does not make cash awards. Funds are targeted at “urgent, personal or household expenses” — rent, medical bills, health insurance premiums and the like — and distributions will be made directly to the entity that needs to be paid.
By Tuesday afternoon, the fund had received over 400 requests for assistance, averaging out at $1,900 apiece. Those requests all came in between then and Friday evening. In an average year, the nonprofit receives 140 similar applications.
As such, the One22 staff is fairly swamped but working to stick to its goal of reaching applicants by phone within three days to gather more information.
One22’s first set of awards are set to be distributed Monday.
Information about applying can be found here.
For information about donating to the fund, which is supported in part through the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, click here. If One22 funded all 400 of the requests it had received by Tuesday at the average amount, that would chalk up to $760,000.
One22 is working with about $500,000 for the fund.
Looking for a job?
For those seeking jobs, the state job board, WyomingAtWork.com, remains an option.
Though businesses have shut down, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Director Robin Cooley said in a Wednesday press conference that “there are still employers looking for jobs and employees looking for jobs.”
Job search requirements mandate that people who qualify for unemployment insurance contact two employers a week to maintain eligibility. Cooley said those requirements may be reconsidered in the coming days. No announcements have been made, but the News&Guide will continue following up to see if changes are made to the state unemployment program.
Resources for service-industry workers
There are a number of national resources for those in the service industry, which has been hit particularly hard by virus-related economic fallout. Like local support agencies, these national groups are also swamped, so response time may be delayed and relief may be limited.
Lindsey Brown is the co-founder of the Southern Smoke Foundation, which originally spun up to help restaurant workers affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. She said the fund received about 200 requests for assistance during Harvey. It has recently received 3,500 applications.
“We’re just going into high gear right now because there are more people in crisis,” she said.
- Southern Smoke Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund. Brown said this resource is “an emergency fund for the industry” focused on supporting those with medical crises, but assistance is not limited. Those who have been laid off may also apply.
- USBG National Charity Foundation’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. This is a non-COVID specific program targeted at bartenders, as well as the spouses or children of bartenders, facing “emergency hardship.” People must have been working as a bartender for a year or more to apply.
- Children of Restaurant Employees Resource Center. This is a non-COVID specific program targeted at food and beverage service employees with children. Support may be available for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or those who have been forced to quarantine because they live with someone diagnosed with the virus.
Support local workers
If you’ve got funds to spare, at least two local businesses have established funds to support their employees: the Mangy Moose and the Fine Dining Restaurant Group.