Economic stimulus money directly benefits older Californians | SierraSun.com

Economic stimulus money directly benefits older Californians

Older job seekers across the country soon will get a boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama on Feb 17. An additional $120 million will be injected this month into the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the only existing federal program serving older workers.

“This is welcome news for many older job seekers in California who, because of their current economic situation, need to re-enter the workforce,” said Teal Kinamun, business and community liaison for Experience Works, a nonprofit agency that operates the SCSEP in Northern California. “This program provides an important safety net and stepping stone for many who are facing difficult times. The stimulus money will allow us to provide additional services to older workers and their communities.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, SCSEP is free to participants who are 55 and older and meet low income criteria. Through the SCSEP, Experience Works assists older people with self-assessments, technical and skills training, the job search process and finding an appropriate training assignment with a local community service agency. The goal is to provide participants with the skills and tools to transition from their community service assignments to permanent employment with a local employer.

Experience Works has seen an increase of up to 70 percent nationwide in the number of people age 55 and older who are seeking assistance. Kinamun confirmed requests for assistance also are up in California.

“We are seeing people who need jobs to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and medicine in the cabinet,” said Kinamun.

Statewide data just released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that California is not immune to this trend. In the 12 months from December 2007 to December 2008, there were 276,000 more Californians 55 and older in the workforce.

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Kinamun said the situation for older people seeking jobs is made more difficult by the large number of people of all ages who need to find work. In December 2008, there were 143,000 Californians age 55 and older unemployed and looking for work, up 31 percent from December 2007.

“Finding work is especially difficult for older people who may have been out of the job search process for 20 or 30 years and are not familiar with current resume styles and applying for jobs online. Also, older job seekers may lack technical and computer skills required in today’s workplace,” said Kinamun. “With the additional money provided through the stimulus program, we will be able to help more older workers re-tool and re-enter the workforce.”

Northern Californians who are 55 years of age or older who want to see if they qualify for SCSEP should contact Experience Works at (866) 860-8175 or visit http://www.experienceworks.org.