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October 8, 1998

Welfare-to-work update

It's not easy to find work in Humboldt County, even in good economic times like these. Imagine trying to find jobs for more than 3,500 people.

That is the task before Humboldt County Department of Social Services staff under new state and federal rules that require parents receiving welfare to support their families at least partially.

Some 1,600 recipients of Temporary Aid for Needy Families have joined the county's CALWORKs job-development program. By the end of the year, all TANF recipients must sign up. Within two years, they must have a job.

As of July 1, 217 TANF recipients had gone to work. Their average wage was $7 per hour.

"They got jobs as assemblers, administrative assistants, auto parts clerks, bookkeepers, beauticians, bartenders, care-givers and many other occupations," said Pat Quinn, CALWORKs program manager.

Most of the new jobs are part-time, and only 45 people earn enough to make it on their own. The rest still receive a partial TANF grant, food stamps and MediCal. And Social Services doesn't know how many of the jobs include health benefits, a critical need for families with children.

"We're not tracking benefits at this point," said Quinn. "We probably will in the future."

These early results have satisfied state social service officials, however. The local CALWORKs recently took in a $900,000 incentive payment from the state.

Since many TANF recipients live in rural areas and don't have reliable cars, CALWORKs may use the money to subsidize a bus line on Highway 299 between Eureka and Redding.

"We're working with Humboldt Transit Authority now on the possibility," said Quinn. "HTA is trying to get a grant (for that service) and we'd contribute the matching funds. HTA is also talking to a representative from the Hoopa Tribe about getting a van service going from Hoopa to Willow Creek," so Hoopa residents could commute to jobs in coastal towns.

As mandated by state law, CALWORKs doesn't provide much skills training. Instead, the program emphasizes getting a job any job as quickly as possible.

But some TANF clients probably won't be able to get and keep a job without a lot of extra help. To provide that assistance, the county and Redwood Community Action Agency sought and won a $1.1 million grant to operate an intensive employment preparation program.

"We're looking at 600 long-term welfare recipients who have had little, if any, work experience in four years or longer," said Simone Taylor of RCAA. They're also facing other major obstacles on the road to self-reliance: long-term domestic violence, mental health problems, addictions, physical or learning disabilities.

The Community Action Agency will employ an "intensive case-management" approach, getting clients to use counseling, training and other services to meet their needs. The agency will also sponsor a support group for women going back to work.

"Basically, we're going to do whatever it takes," said Thora Faigle, program supervisor. "It we have to pick clients up at home, because there's no evening bus service, and take them to meetings at Humboldt Women for Shelter, that's what we'll do."

City Garbage back in

People and businesses in the central Humboldt Bay area generate about 200 tons of trash a day, enough to create an awful mess in the two months before the county's new trash transfer station in Arcata is up and running.

The spectre of mounding trash heaps was averted with a late offer by City Garbage Co. to keep its Eureka transfer station on Hawthorne Street open temporarily. (The company's contract expired Sept. 30.)

"They sent us a letter saying their choice to stay open could change any time," said Gerald Kindsfather, director of the Humboldt County Waste Management Authority. "They've also given us a rate that's subject to change at any time.

"In the event they decide to terminate their service, the authority needs to be ready to take over and provide service," said Kindsfather, noting that the waste authority is still working with Eel River Disposal, Humboldt Sanitation and the city of Arcata on short-term plans to ship trash out of the area.

EPIC targets Simpson

Pacific Lumber Co. slipped out of the spotlight for a fleeting moment last week when a Garberville-based conservation group announced it was suing Simpson Timber Co. over its approved Habitat Conservation Plan.

The Environmental Protection Information Center filed the lawsuit in federal District Court in San Francisco because, it contends, Simpson and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have failed for years to comply with the Endangered Species Act. EPIC is asking the court to suspend the habitat plan for the company's 456,000 acres of land in Humboldt and Del Norte counties until certain terms are met.

EPIC says Simpson and the federal agency failed to consult each other on the impacts logging might have on the coho salmon and marbled murrelet since the habitat plan for northern spotted owls was approved in 1992.

Simpson fired back that by filing the lawsuit EPIC "seeks to undo one of the most successful private endangered species conservation strategies in history."

The company contends that the Endangered Species Act does not require the Forest Service to reopen Simpson's old habitat plan simply because another species was listed as threatened or endangered, officials said.

Freshwater logging resumes

Logging has resumed in a 78-acre tract near Freshwater after the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Pacific Lumber Co. operation last week.

Residents in the watershed had sued the state Department of Forestry for allegedly failing to consider cumulative impacts of the harvest when compared to earlier logging operations in the area.

The Freshwater Creek Neighborhood Association says extensive upstream logging has caused flooding and silted waterways.

Vetoes hurt county budget

Gov. Pete Wilson last week vetoed two pieces of key legislation that would have provided money to fund Humboldt County's court system and deepen Humboldt Bay Harbor.

The $1.8 million trial court funding bill would have been a boost for the county, but a contingency plan was already in place. And the veto was sweetened by the recent state approval of $12 million for Humboldt County included in the Headwaters Forest deal.

But the harbor deepening veto was a disappointed. "This was one of the worst, misguided vetoes I have ever seen," said state Sen. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena.

The legislation would have paved the way for Humboldt County to qualify for a portion of $60 million in federal funds earmarked for ports throughout the state.

The vetoed measure would have appropriated $15.7 million for seven deep port dredging projects, including one in Crescent City.

In his veto message, Wilson said the money would be better used to help create a 2 percent state reserve fund.

Welcome to Arcata

A California Welcome Center, the seventh official building of its kind in the state, will soon be coming to Arcata.

Run by the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, the new center off Heindon Road near the U.S. Highway 101 and state Highway 299 interchange should be constructed by summer 1999. The chamber will share the site with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The chamber had been pursuing the project for more than a year and recently received approval from the state Division of Tourism.

Serving the region, the facility will include displays, travel information and a hospitality training room.

Currently, the nearest California Welcome Center is in Rohnert Park.

Jury selection underway

Jury selection began last week in the trial of Michael S. Shaddix, a Sunny Brae Middle School teacher accused of sexually molesting two female students between 1988 and 1991.

Shaddix has been charged with 13 counts involving lewd acts with children. The molestations reportedly occurred at the school, a private residence and three rural areas in Humboldt and Trinity counties.

The trial may run three to four months and numerous jurors are being excused due to potential financial hardship. Opening arguments may begin as early as next week.

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