On January 11th, Dave Darrow , manager at the Bonners Ferry office of the Department of Labor, made a very interesting presentation about the employment situation in Boundary County, North Idaho and the State of Idaho.  Unemployment in the county is over 16% (statewide it stands at over 9%).  The average unemployment in the county in 2009 was 12.6%, and in 2010, it had risen to 15.5%. 

Darrow reported that no quick recovery is anticipated in Bonner or Boundary County because of the lack of a manufacturing base and the high timber industry.  Another factor contributing to the unemployment situation is that until recently, compensation was limited to a maximum of 26 weeks. Under Emergency Unemployment Compensation legislation, a recipient who is eligible to receive 26 weeks can now receive up to 99 weeks of compensation, nearly 2 years.  Consequently, employers are not hiring individuals who have been unemployed for nearly 2 years because of job skills. And because an individual must be looking for work to continue receiving unemployment compensation, as soon as benefits end, the unemployed stop looking for work.  Adding to this bleak picture on a national level (including Idaho) is that states have had to borrow from the Federal government to pay for unemployment compensation because their trust funds are depleted.

Mr. Darrow did give us an indication of some good news...Welco has reopened and the tree farms are flourishing.

On January 18th, Elsie Hollenbeck, spoke about the Phoenix Project, a program in this community for teens, and an outgrowth of the Coalition for Families.  Hollenbeck, a volunteer with the Project, stated that the program was developed to address the homeless, substance abuse, and the challenges of just being a teenager.  She summarized the planning phase of the project including a place to meet in lieu of a community center, at least one program or activity each month under adult supervision, and the coordination with similar organizations like the Women's Center in Coeur d'Alene and Head Start. 

Hollenbeck stressed the need for volunteers for strengthening the organization, for chaperones at events, for tutoring and for working with juvenile justice/probation. The project is also in need of financial resources.  Volunteers are mentors to teenagers and volunteers can connect teenagers to community resources to help them establish goals in their busy lives.