Wednesday. July 1st: Community Response Committee
SUMMARY: The group convened in person and online via Mid-State Technical College’s Microsoft Teams tool.
It was reported that the Rapid Response effort related to this closing had begun and that layoff notices had been sent to employees; meetings with employees in the process were being scheduled for July 12 through July 23.
Rep. Krug and others noted that it would be desirable to get the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to open the Job Center in Wisconsin Rapids for service to affected workers and families, with a limited opening to just “Verso families” if need be.
The group was told that explorations were being made on the availability of funding for the situation through TAA and WIOA. It was noted that as of the meeting the unions has applied for TAA but at that time Verso had not yet done so; the company was working on compiling data for its application.
Discussion was made of a potential job fair to assist employees and it noted that the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber was already making plans for one. It was also noted that because Verso hopes to keep much of the workforce at the plant intact for a possible sale of the plant, Verso therefore asks that any job fair be delayed for 30 days. It was decided to proceed with plans for a job fair after 30 days, and to explore a resource fair.
Discussion was made of the implications of the closure on health care coverage. The offices of the congressional delegation were asked to obtain updates for employees and families on ACA availability and ACA navigators.
It was shared that the state’s 211 service is operating despite Covid constraints, and is fully staffed at all hours and able to route callers to resources.
A short overview was provided of services available from Wood County and of the counties’ links to United Way offices in the area.
The bargaining timeline at Verso was discussed; the committee was told that bargaining was soon to begin and would probably be complete within a week or two.
Discussion was made of how to publicize these efforts; the use of internet and of radio PSAs was suggested.
State agency involvement was discussed. It was noted that the current Covid-driven backlog on unemployment claims would affect the efforts of Verso families to obtain benefits. DWD would be asked to route resources to the challenge of serving Verso families promptly in this situation.
Discussion was also made of the educational and retraining resources available to families.
It was asked that DWD plan to present at the next meeting, and it was arranged that the next meeting be scheduled for Wednesday, July 15 at Mid-State.