Franklin Co. program moving people from public assistance to livable-wage jobs

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A Franklin County program aims to put people back to work, and on a path to independence.

Tens of thousands of people in Franklin County are out of work. Hundreds of thousands receive some kind of public assistance.

The PeopleWorks program is helping employers find job-ready candidates, and helping those who aren’t job-ready, get there.

No one loves the Monday morning return to work, until you've been without a job to go to.

Angela Lewis knows both sides of the career coin:  the instability of a job that meets just the basic needs and the desperation of no job at all.

"I was worried about if my electric was going to get shut off, my gas was going to get shut off,” she said. “How was I going to live the next day, the day after?"

It left her unable to provide for herself or the granddaughter she's raising.

"I would cry all the time. But I wouldn't let her see me," she said.

Lewis was far from alone. There are more than 300,000 people in Franklin County receiving some type of public assistance.

"We have an 18 percent poverty rate,” Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown said. “We've got a record number of family homelessness. We've got all kind of issues of under- and unemployed workers."

Brown says key to the county's economic health is moving people from jobless benefits to stable jobs with benefits.

"So they can pay their rent, so they have stable housing, so their kids are in school…to help these families become more stable,” she said. “It's everything."

Last summer, Franklin County launched the PeopleWorks program, aimed at moving people from public assistance to jobs with a living wage.

So far, working with 11 different companies, the county has placed 86 workers in full-time jobs, paying $11 an hour or higher.    

"It's really a win-win,” Kyle Kirkpatrick, who works in Human Resources for JCPenney, said.

He’s hired 23 workers referred by Franklin County.

"In this job market, with unemployment rates being as low as it is, it's really hard to find good people. And this is one of the ways we can do that," Kirkpatrick said.

It’s how he found Angela Lewis.

"It feels real good to know I've got income,” Lewis said. “I can pay my bills. Don't have to worry about it, go to sleep worrying, wake up worrying. It's a great feeling."

Now even a Monday, is a good day.

"I see a good future for myself,” she said. “I really do."

PeopleWorks includes a navigation process to connect employers with the applicants most suited to their needs.

There's also grant funding to help cover training costs for those workers.  

Employers looking for workers can find out more information online by clicking here.