Not since Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers have we been treated to such a song and dance as the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) is giving us as their “Achy Breaky Heart” reasons for shutting down its physical location in Grangeville.

IDOL’s lease on its Main Street office at the Mini-Mall expires July 31. After that, IDOL employees will offer “hours and appointments in numerous communities in each region,” says the release, but in details the agency has yet to finalize.

Are you kidding us? This is your plan?

The state agency has had a presence – physical office space -- in Grangeville for decades. It has been a location essential to job seekers, those looking to retrain for a new career, and for overall employment and unemployment assistance. It has been centrally located, in the county seat, for those within the region to have a more convenient option than traveling to a larger urban area, such as Lewiston.

Service for decades, and now, with less than a month’s notice, this is going away, in favor of IDOL employees running all the agency has to offer out of the convenience of their cars, and in any spare office space that can be swung at the moment.

Who plans such significant changes as this in such short notice? And nowhere in their release is there any recognition—not even a trite “We know this is difficult,” sentiment -- of the impact this will have in the 13 communities that will lose a physical office in favor of transient IDOL employees begging door-to-door for a meeting room.

Let’s tear into a few points noted in the release:

“We are bringing the Department of Labor to the citizens of rural Idaho.”

No, in fact, you are reducing its availability by eliminating a physical location where residents can talk to IDOL employees for assistance and use computers. IDOL should operate for the convenience of the customer, not itself.

“This is a new way to provide service, an Idaho way, that addresses the unique regional challenges we face in our state.”

No, this is an old way, of cutting services and accessibility, spun to sound like it meets the lifestyle of today’s mobile phone generation. Meeting the area’s “unique regional challenges” would be to offer hours and appointments in area communities, in addition, to keeping a physical location. Syringa Hospital, a public facility funded by tax dollars, offers a main facility along with satellite offices with set hours. Why can’t IDOL?

“We want to provide more Idahoans topnotch service when they need it, where they need it in order to help them get back to work access the benefits they are entitled to.”

Then IDOL should have not closed offices, but expanded services. Topnotch service isn’t closing an established agency on short notice and then inconveniencing customers to play phone tag to meet up at who knows where with questionable – if any -- Internet service (much less available computers) and no expectations of privacy.

IDOL director Jani Revier is quoted as saying, “Accountability to Idahoans is at the heart of this model. It features more people providing better access using fewer taxpayer dollars.”

Really? From this chair, it looks like bean counters driving service to fewer areas to cut costs, so IDOL’s bottom line looks better to Idaho legislators when considering the agency’s budget next session.

This closure is inconsiderately timed, and it will be implemented with no plan on how to go forward to make this hot mess work. Who suffers in all this? Your neighbors, prospective employers, vocational instructors, and the rural economy.


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