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Learning from other communities

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By Katy Korkos

 

The Community Dialogue format in Los Alamos has traditionally been an informal gathering of people to discuss a variety of issues facing the community. Now, a dialogue group is working with the specific focus of providing support to workers who have lost their jobs. Kevin Holsapple, director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, facilitated a meeting Wednesday in the Community Building, the group’s third since it formed in response to the announcement of layoffs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The dialogue group is comprised of representatives from social services, the business community, the laboratory’s community service division, retirees and government.Since the cuts were announced, the group has formed three subcommittees to look at cataloging the resources currently available, public information and lessons learned from layoffs in other towns. A fourth group will come up with recommendations when all of the preliminary investigations have been completed. Each group has completed an action plan, and presented the plans at a meeting.The “lessons learned” subcommittee has been talking to other communities who have experienced similar layoffs, to determine how people could be supported here. An interview conducted with a job assistance office in Nevada, after 200 employees were affected by layoffs at the Nevada Test Site, showed two useful pieces of advice for Los Alamos. It was suggested first that an “out-processing center” be set up where people could get benefit information, and secondly, that all orally presented material be given to ‘RIF-ees’ in writing for review after the shock wears off.” “When employees have to gather up their stuff and leave, that’s where we come in,” Cheryl Pongratz of Los Alamos Family Council said.The group is hoping to work with the laboratory to distribute informational packets to those who are laid off as well as those who take the voluntary layoffs. Today is the last day for people who volunteered to change their minds.Joan Story reported on the success of the community service fair held at UNM - Los Alamos last week. She said that the fair hosted 75-100 people, a better attendance than at either of the laboratory-sponsored public meetings outside the lab.“It was an interesting spectrum of people,” Story said. “I heard reactions ranging from ‘very, very stressed’ to ‘I’m going fishing’ from people.”Story added, “Lots of people were interested in lab benefits,” but that she was not able to answer their questions, and answers would have to come from the lab benefits office.When the committee’s work is done, people from all over northern New Mexico who need help with financial planning, mental health issues such as stress and filing for unemployment benefits should have a one-stop type of resource,  committee members said, where simply by going to a website or calling a toll-free phone number, they will be able to get the help they need.