Just a few short weeks ago, Olney’s CareerLink Center was bustling with activity, with many job-searching hopefuls lined up outside of its door and still more seated in the waiting room. Today, the office is almost a ghost town.
Earlier this month, cuts in government funding caused the location to be shut down. All that remains of the CareerLink are a couple of posters on the walls and a few cubicles of free public computers, whose repairs will also no longer be funded by the Pennsylvania government.
Those unaware of the closing are handed a photocopied sheet of paper with addresses of other CareerLink locations by a worker from the Korean Community Development Services Center who shared the office with the CareerLink service offered through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.
Along with the North Fifth Street location, two other CareerLink sites are crossed out on the paper, signifying their elimination and providing proof of a larger problem at hand: this unfortunate issue is not unique to Olney.
For an organization boasting upwards of 100,000 participants and close to 41,000 different current job openings, it is confusing to many area residents who are feeling the effects of this loss how a service so helpful, beneficial and widely utilized could lose funding.
A significant number of Olney’s citizens harbor negative feelings toward the government due to the unemployment problem that has arisen over the past few years and feel as though there could be more done about the situation.
“I think [the government] should be [helping people find jobs] because there’s a lot of people out here who don’t have jobs,” said resident LaKeisha Lomax. “They need to create more jobs and stop trying to collect more taxes and let us have more jobs so people can start paying taxes.”
Previously unemployed Fatima Brown also feels as though the system should be
doing more for the jobless. Brown believes that the government should create more employment aid programs. Specifically, Brown said, for single mothers like herself.
“I have three boys,” Brown said, “and it’s hard doing it by myself. Sometimes I wish I needed to go back on unemployment. Just more programs. More stability. Even sometimes therapy.”
Others, like neighborhood inhabitant Lillian Schems, have more of a positive outlook on the situation.
“The current administration is doing a better job than the previous one,” Schems said, “but it’s not the best. Its good considering what they had to work with.”
Besides lack of government assistance in the job search, a good number of people in Olney feel that Pennsylvania should join the 13 states whose minimum wage rate exceeds the federal standard of $7.25. They attest that this hourly pay isn’t enough for the average resident to live off of, let alone those who have to support their families.
“I don’t know what [the minimum wage] should be,” said area resident Leah Whittaker, “but it seems like the gas bill, electric bill, and everything goes up but the paycheck still stays the same. You have to live. You have to have a place to live and care for your family and you can’t do that on minimum wage. If some of these big corporations would forfeit some of their big bucks as far as pay and bonuses are concerned, it could give more people a chance so that they could have a salary.”
“I think it should go up,” said LaKeisha Lomax, “because we do work hard and we’re not paid enough to even support our families off of the minimum wage. $7.25. That’s just not enough. I have a daughter and she’s six and it’s just me taking care of her by myself.”
“I don’t think a person with no kids could live off of minimum wage,” agreed Fatima Brown.
Lillian Schems disagrees with the common stereotype that of those unemployed and collecting unemployment checks are just lazy, taking advantage of the system and not trying hard enough.
“Its bad to make generalizations but it could be a little of both,” Schems said. “Sometimes people are lazy and sometimes it’s just that hard to find good work.”
Regardless of whether or not the unemployed are listless or fighting a relentless uphill battle, most people agree on the idea that the job market is not the most pleasant place to be.
“Sometimes you don’t have enough experience,” lamented Fatima Brown. “Sometimes you have too much experience.”
“It tends to get frustrating,” Leah Whittaker said of the employment search. “It changes from day to day. They tend to make you think that you’re not good enough.”