Local workforce training on tap; 36,000 without a job in Cameron County

Pat Hobbs, executive director of Cameron County Workforce Solutions, said during a press conference on Friday that 36,000 individuals in the county are without a job after being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said there are several programs available for the community that include retraining employees, since some jobs are not coming back due to the pandemic. He added they received $875,000 in grant money from the Texas Workforce Commission.

“These funds cover various types of assistance; one grant is called ‘layoff aversion.’ If a business is having trouble getting the resources to get back up and rehire their employees, we have some funding that can help,” he said.

“If the business needs to retrain its workforce and pivot to another delivery system of its product, we can help with that training. We can even help to some small extent on building the necessary and precautionary plexiglass that you now see in a lot of the stores that are reopening,” Hobbs said.

The executive director also said they are greatly concerned not only about the health issues of COVID-19 but the impact on the economy and on the businesses. Last week the county had an unemployment rate of 16 percent and they are now at about 11 percent, Hobbs said.

“Mainly our money is for training. There are jobs that are not coming back, people are going to need to be retrained, take a new look on what their interest and capabilities are and come to the workforce center and register for assistance from our training dollars,” he said.

“We not only have this $875,000 from the state, but we also have our regular funding, which our budget is about $34 million every year.”

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said many people have asked when Cameron County was going to start a program to assist the local businesses, like Hidalgo County did. He reminds residents that Hidalgo County received over $150 million directly from the federal government to assist in a number of different areas including health, welfare and government and business-related issues. Cameron County only received a little over $5 million.

The judge added this was in the CARES Act, and that if you had a population of over 500,000, you got a per capita of $176 per person. Cameron County, because of the state’s calculation, which the judge said they don’t agree with, received a per capita of approximately $55.

“Those numbers are nowhere near the extent of the need that we’ve had locally,” he said.

“That’s one of the reasons why we did not have the resources, the money, to hand out either grants or loans but we did everything we could and working with our state and Workforce Commission through Pat and his team and I think we have done a heck of a job, obviously there’s still so much to do.”

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com