UNION CITY, Tenn. - In an area where the unemployment rate just went up, the unemployment office is about to shut down.
It's all part of a statewide effort to save money, but the unemployed are worried about all the money the move will cost them. That's because they'll have to drive farther to get the help they need.
It happened in Illinois. Now, people in Tennessee are dealing with the same thing.
At Tennessee Career Centers, you have two things going on under one roof. One agency takes care of career services. That's where people learn how to write resumes, learn new skills, and search for jobs. The second function is unemployment benefits. You meet with a career center employee and prove you're actively searching for jobs in order to keep getting unemployment benefits.
The career services part is moving just down the road, but the unemployment benefit part will no be available in Obion County.
You'll have to go all the way to Dyersburg, Tennessee if you need to meet someone about benefits. That's a 36 mile drive, about 42 minutes one way.
This isn't unique to Union City. The state's closing career centers in Henry and Weakley counties too.
Questions, complaints and even confusion.
Brooke Pugh came in to the career center to look for a job, but she's walking out mad.
"They don't live here. They're not trying to find jobs here. They're not trying to have lives in this area," Pugh said.
She can't believe the Department of Labor is closing a portion of the center, meaning people who need to meet about unemployment benefits, must drive to Dyersburg.
"People who are unemployed don't have the money to drive to Dyer County," Pugh said.
Jeff Hentschel with the Department of Labor says the state doesn't have the money to keep the doors open, and admitted they didn't put much emphasis on the area's unemployment figures and were more focused on geography and population.
"We just really looked at the amount of people we could serve, with the amount of dollars we had," Hentschel said.
Margaret Prater with Workforce Development said the Career Services portion is simply moving down the street.
"I keep hearing from employees that their won't be a career center anymore to help. Well, there will be help."
Pugh fears it won't be enough.
It's not just happening in Northwest Tennessee. The state is closing 34 of these centers across the state. A total of 128 state workers will lose their jobs. 11 of those are in our area. A state spokesperson says federal funding for the program ran out last year, and since 2004, the centers were operating in the red.
Are there any other options for people in Union City who don't want or can't afford to drive to Dyersburg?
The spokesperson told me the state has several mobile career centers, and they'll be sure to move them more frequently, meaning the unit will make more stops throughout Northwest Tennessee.
The career centers close on June 18. In Union City, the Career Services portion moves to the Tennessee Tech Center on South 2nd Street.