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State recognizes local businesses for hiring WorkFirst participants

Statistics show 77 percent drop in welfare cases in White Salmon due to welfare-to-work program

More than 30 Mid-Columbia businesses received recognition Oct. 11 for providing jobs to low-income parents, workers affected by layoffs, veterans, refugees, youths and others through two state employment initiatives.

WorkFirst is a statewide, state-run program that helps welfare recipients find and maintain employment. WorkSource is a joint venture of organizations that offer resources for businesses and job-seekers.

The two programs joined forces last week to honor employers during a WorkFirst Employer Recognition Breakfast at the White Salmon Park Center.

One of the businesses recognized last was Sterling Savings Bank, which hired two WorkFirst participants as tellers. The bank's customer service supervisor, Wanita Gordon, said they are quick learners with strong work ethics.

"We are very pleased with their job performance and enthusiasm. Those are the kind of people we like to see," she said.

Gordon knows the difference that a job can make in a person's life.

"Thirty years ago I was in a similar situation. Our family was low-income," she explained. "Somebody gave me a chance."

Also honored during the recognition ceremony were such local businesses as Pronto Plumbing, GorgeKids, Vanguard Nursery, Innovative Composite Engineering, and Mid-Columbia Children's Council/Head Start.

"These businesses are the backbone of WorkFirst and WorkSource's successes. They've created career opportunities that have improved the lives of many people in our community and strengthened the area's economy," said Mary Harper, WorkSource business outreach specialist for Klickitat and Skamania counties.

The number of parents receiving welfare grants in White Salmon has dropped 77 percent since WorkFirst started, from 179 cases in January 1977 to 41 cases in August 2001. Statewide, more than 145,000 participants have joined Washington's workforce since the program began.

Businesses that hire WorkFirst participants gain more than qualified, eager employees, said Dennis Loney, business liaison for the Washington Employment Security Department.

"WorkFirst and WorkSource hiring events have made it possible for (businesses) to eliminate high advertising and recruitment costs," he said. "Plus, they save even more because WorkFirst offers tax credits to businesses and training for their workers."

Four state agencies administer WorkFirst programs: Employment Security Department, Department of Social and Health Services, Office of Trade and Economic Development, and the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.

For more information about the WorkFirst program and employer benefits, visit the WorkFirst web site at To learn more about WorkSource services, go to on the web.


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