Job Service of North Dakota has requested $240,000 from state lawmakers to deal with something of a budget crunch. The agency is something like 95 percent funded by the federal government, but the feds have reduced their funding for the agency because of North Dakota’s strong job market. But now with oil prices in the tank, leading to much higher than normal filings for unemployment benefits, that reduction in funding has the agency hurting.
The Legislature’s Emergency Commission approved that funding request last week, but it also needed approval from the Budget Section committee. They decided not to approve the funding, which prompted an email to Job Service employees from Executive Director Cheri Giesen blaming the Legislature for holiday-time layoffs.
“These dollars would have been used to maintain our current staffing levels during the month of January 2016, during which we will experience a dramatic increase in workload. Because we did not receive these funds, staff layoffs and office closures must start first part of January 2016.,” Giesen wrote in the missive which was forwarded to me by a SAB reader. “I understand this process may be frustrating, especially with the factors that remain unknown.”
Lawmakers I’ve spoken to say they’re reluctant to fund Job Service given that it would mean replacing federal money with state money. They do not want to create an expectation that the state will replace federal funds for agencies that largely operate under the auspices of federal regulations.
Which certainly makes sense to me. Our state lawmakers get the blame from Giesen, but the Job Service isn’t really a state agency in truth.