Unemployment hits home for Gardnerville resident
Gardnerville resident Coleen Wilson received a strange phone call last month. A man she had never met asked her if she was still interested in a job she had never applied for nor even heard of.
Turns out someone from her household had used her phone number to respond to a job posting online. That someone was her 13-year-old son Bryce, a Carson Valley Middle School eighth-grader, who had applied for the part-time position in an effort to help his mother through a difficult time, thinking he could work a few hours after class each day.
The week before, his mother broke the devastating news – that she was no longer employed.
“I tried to explain to him the economy, how probably there won’t be new snowboards this winter, or new skateboards,” Wilson said on Thursday. “I tried telling him how bad the economy is, that it’s no fault of his mom, that we didn’t do anything wrong, but that they’re just cutting back. He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, that sucks. You liked that job.'”
More than a month ago, Wilson was a 50-year-old single mother working as a games dealer on the graveyard shift at Carson Valley Inn, where she had worked for a year and a half after moving her son to the Valley in 2005.
“I chose to work graveyard,” she said. “I wanted to be there for my son when he got home from school. I wanted to make him dinner and push him to do his homework. I would work from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., then come home and try to take a couple-hour nap before he got home from school. It took a lot of Red Bulls.”
However, on the morning of Oct. 12, everything changed. Wilson and five other graveyard employees were called into a meeting and informed they were being laid off. Without warning, Wilson suddenly found herself among the thousands of Nevadans without a job.
According to the latest numbers from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, more than 3,000 residents of Douglas County are out of work, from an available workforce of about 24,000. In September, the county’s unemployment rate hit 12.6 percent, the highest so far this year, and higher than the record-setting national rate of 10.2 percent.
“I’m trying to remain positive, while facing the reality that one day of unemployment may turn into weeks, or months of unemployment,” Wilson said. “I don’t want to relay any negativity to potential employers.”
Two weeks after she was laid off, Wilson began drawing unemployment benefits. Although state funds were recently bolstered by the federal government, Wilson worries that her weekly allocation won’t be enough to pay her bills, especially with the winter months and steeper utility costs approaching.
So she’s been looking for work at other casinos, at the Lake and in Carson City, even as far away as Reno. But she’s had little to no luck.
“I haven’t heard anything back,” she said. “The gaming industry has been hit really hard as far as dealing and the pit goes, and that’s where my training’s been. I’m working on my resume, though, and thinking maybe it’s time for a change.”
In her second week of unemployment, Wilson said she panicked and drove to the Nevada Division of Welfare office in Carson City, where she filled out an 18-page application for financial assistance.
“It was very humbling,” she said. “When I was younger, I would hold two jobs to support my son. I had always refused government assistance. My father was someone who worked one job at IBM for 40 years, and had always taught me to never take handouts, to go out and work.”
But things have changed, Wilson said. While her application for assistance is pending with the state, she’s going out to look for work, hoping the holidays will bring some seasonal jobs. She’s also checking back with CVI every week to see if any of the terminated positions will be reinstated, and she’s registered with the state’s JobConnect office in Carson City as well.
“My advice to people is to remain positive and not get discouraged; there are a lot of resources out there to help you,” Wilson said. “We’re going to get by. We’re going to get through this, somehow, someway.”
Jeff Frischmann, chief of northern field operations for the state’s Employment Security Division, said Wednesday that his department encourages anybody who’s laid off to contact the unemployment insurance claim center immediately, to determine if they are eligible for benefits.
“You can also file online,” he said. “We highly encourage that since the phone system is so busy.”
Statewide, he said, his department has been receiving about 4,000 phone calls a day, resulting in 30-plus-minute delays on the phone line.
“You can save frustration and time by going online,” he said. “Beyond that, we encourage people to visit the JobConnect center. There we list job openings and refer qualified candidates to specific job openings. We also have some different types of training if anyone is interested in sharpening up their skills, and workshops that help people build their resumes.”
Frischmann said his department is always looking for employers.
“Really our mission is to serve both the employer and employees, to be a meeting point between the two,” he said.
The closest JobConnect office is located at 1929 North Carson Street and is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office can be reached at (775) 684-0400.
Unemployment claims can be filed online at http://www.expressclaim.org. The state’s unemployment call center can be reached 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at (775) 684-0350. Frischmann said staff are available until 7 p.m. to assist customer who call in before closing but are put on hold.