More than half of Idaho’s local job service offices will close by September, the Idaho Department of Labor announced on Monday, as the department launches a “new service model” that will shrink the number of local offices from 25 to 11 statewide.
Among the Idaho communities that no longer would have walk-in job service offices are Meridian, the state’s second-largest city and one of the fastest-growing in the state; Grangeville, Kellogg and Bonners Ferry, which are in some of the state’s highest-unemployment counties; and such communities as McCall, Emmett, Mountain Home, Payette, Rexburg and Hailey.
Jani Revier, Idaho Department of Labor director, said in a press release that the new model will “directly serve more Idahoans.” There would be six primary regional offices in Post Falls, Lewiston, Caldwell, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. Five affiliate offices would remain in Sandpoint, Orofino, Boise, Burley and Salmon.
Services elsewhere will be “decentralized,” Revier said, with appointments and office hours offered at other facilities, like libraries or other government or non-profit offices, and no department employees or services would be eliminated.
“We are investing in people, not space,” Revier told the Idaho Press. “That’s how we’re able to do it without reducing staff. We want to continue to have the same level of service that we currently have.”
When the Otter administration proposed in 2016 to close half the local job service offices in the state, lawmakers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee balked amid concerns from rural communities and persuaded the administration to back off the move.
“I think there’s a big difference between this proposal and the last proposal,” said Revier, who was Otter’s budget chief — responsible for pitching budget ideas to state lawmakers — back in 2016. “The last proposal was really pulling out of those communities. We’re not intending on pulling out of any communities. We will still remain in those communities, just in a different form.”
Another difference: The plan is moving forward right now, rather than being pitched to the Legislature. The Moscow job service office closed last week. “We anticipate having the model fully implemented at the end of September,” Revier said.
You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Tuesday's Idaho Press; it's on the front page.