County hit by job losses launches call center

EUGENE — In Lane County, three people who recently lost their jobs are about to go to work manning the phones at a one-stop call center for the newly unemployed.

The center is a response to the cascade of job losses in the Willamette Valley county, once home to a flourishing industry in recreational vehicles that has been devastated in recent months.

The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene reported that the center is to begin taking calls on Wednesday. It will assist workers with questions ranging from immediate needs such as food and shelter to options for their future, such as job retraining.

"People who have lost their jobs are overwhelmed," said Kristina Payne, a manager at the Lane Workforce Partnership. "They're not sure where to start. They want to know: 'What's my first step? What should be my second step?' "

The call center is a project of the Lane Workforce Partnership, Lane Community College, United Way, Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Employment Department.

Plans for the call center came together quickly, said Payne, after the termination of about 2,200 workers earlier this month by RV maker Monaco Coach.

"Monaco tipped the scales," Payne said. "We realized we can't just keeping doing the same things. We really have to get creative about this."

Six people will staff phone lines at the call center, including three who have themselves been laid off from jobs at semiconductor maker Hynix, at Monaco and in the financial industry, Payne said. One employee is bilingual in Spanish and English, she said.

People who call for help will be connected to the service they need in the most direct way possible, Payne said, and will be encouraged to call back if they do not immediately receive the assistance they need.

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