Former Labor Secretary Martin Advocates for Freeport IDES Office
(L to R) IL Senator Tim Bivins, Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp, former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, US Rep. Bobby Schilling, and IL Rep. Jim Sacia make a public plea to Governor Pat Quinn to keep the soon to be closed Freeport office of IDES (Illinois Department of Employment Security) open. (PA photo/John Huggins)
By JOHN HUGGINS | For The Prairie Advocate News
FREEPORT, Ill.—Today U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Colona) joined former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin and Mayor George Gaulrapp (D-Freeport), State Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica), State Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), Kim Grimes, President of the Freeport Chamber, Dave Young of the Northwest Illinois Development Alliance, and J.C. Wilson of the “Citizens for Freeport IDES” to urge Governor Pat Quinn (D-Ill.) to halt the closing of the state-managed IDES office in Freeport that helps residents with unemployment claims and job search services.
“Unemployment is at 11.6 percent,” stated Rep. Schilling, “There is a definite need for this facility here. We need to work and look for a solution that works for everyone, and shutting down this office doesn’t do that.”
The Illinois Department of Employee Security (IDES) announced last month that it would be closing its Freeport office by the end of the year in an effort to deal with revenue losses due to shrinking unemployment claims. IDES manages more than 50 offices in Illinois, and the closure of the Freeport office would require local residents to drive to Rockford or Sterling to get services.
“While there is obviously a need to cut expenses due to budget constraints, we need to seek an alternative to closing this office in a community struggling with some of the worst unemployment in the state,” Schilling said. “If the Freeport IDES office is closed, many residents will be forced to travel to Rockford or Sterling in order to help them get back on their feet, and with gas prices soaring, that’s quite the hardship for those with limited resources. We need to look for a solution that works for everyone, and shutting down this office doesn’t do that.”
“If you ask people to go to Sterling or Rockford, there is no public transportation available,” added Mayor Gaulrapp, “Some people looking for jobs don’t have cars.”
Schilling said there are other ways to cut spending without eliminating the office.
“There are options,” Schilling said. “We can look at finding cheaper leasing costs in the Freeport area, or even cut back on hours and services, but eliminating the entire office hurts the people of Freeport and I won’t stand for that. We need to maintain some level of service in Freeport to help local residents in need of assistance.”
Rep. Sacia announced there will be a meeting at 6:30 pm on Thursday, November 1 at the Freeport Public Library to discuss this issue. IDES Director Jay Rowell has been invited to the meeting.