County Manager Column from August 4, 2020

This column was originally published as a "From the County Manager" column on our employee intranet

RISE programs helping job seekers, small businesses, families and residents

This week, we welcome a guest column by Johanna Berg, Deputy County Manager of Economic Growth and Community Investment, about the impacts our Ramsey Investment and Support Efforts (RISE) are having to help our job seekers, small businesses, families and individuals. - Ryan

Yesterday, leaders of Ramsey County and Saint Paul gathered with news media at Dayton’s Bluff Library to announce the launch of six new Community Career Labs at locations throughout the county. These reservation-based sites provide critical computer access to help those who have been impacted by COVID-19 connect with workforce services – from applications, to training, to virtual meetings with career counselors. Careful planning for these sites and a strong partnership with Saint Paul Public Library have allowed us to safely open these sites for reservation-only access following Public Health guidelines for those who have lost their jobs, had hours reduced, have been furloughed or otherwise had their employment affected by COVID-19.

Watch a video of the event

Two of the sites are at our Ramsey County Library locations in Maplewood and Roseville, while the other four are partner sites at libraries serving some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Saint Paul – Dayton’s Bluff, Rice Street, Rondo Community Library and Sun Ray. When we launch our Downtown Service Center in the East Building later this month, we will open a Community Career Lab there as well. We’re also remaining flexible so we can add pop-up and community sites based on demand to ensure we’re serving all of our communities and meeting our residents where they are.

Community Career Labs are a great example of how Workforce Solutions and partners in other departments like Finance, Information Services, Property Management and Communications & Public Relations are aligning resources quickly to put the $96 million of federal funding through the CARES act into operation for those who need help most in our communities as a result of COVID-19. We commend staff for bringing programs like this forward just weeks after our commissioners approved a framework for investing the CARES funding. These Ramsey County Reinvestment and Support Efforts (RISE) address three main areas: Employment support programs, including Community Career Labs, are helping to get people back to work, providing training and helping to provide technology resources for those who don’t have access for job searching, digital literacy, career development and more. A significant component includes partnering with dozens of community-based organizations who will provide employment support and services to residents who have been most impacted by COVID-19.

Another RISE focus area is Small business. Just this morning we announced a second round of applications for grants of up to $10,000 to help sole proprietors and those contributing to the local creative economy pay for critical expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities and costs associated with reopening. Small businesses with 20 or fewer employees who missed the first round of millions in grants that have been awarded since June through the Small Business Relief Fund are encouraged to apply. In total, at least $15 million of CARES funding will be provided to help small businesses through these efforts led by Community & Economic Development.

Last week, our focused messages began about RISE Help and home programs intended to help individuals and families with housing and basic needs. Delivered by Financial Assistance Services, these programs provide financial assistance for rent, mortgage and utility assistance and are among several programs in this area. We’ve shared information about programs that support those experiencing homelessness a number of times through this column (here’s the most recent of these). We’ll be featuring other programs that provide additional support for food and basic needs in a future article. Altogether, we’ve committed using more than $42 million of the CARES funding for these programs.

As critical to providing these programs is ensuring that all members of our communities – especially those who have the greatest needs – are aware of these RISE programs and understand how to use them. Last week’s video message featured the Trusted Messenger and Media Partners initiative driven by the Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team (RECERT) that breaks through barriers to help us provide a whole county response to COVID-19.

Finally, in support of our goal of accountability – we are committed to providing as much detail and transparency around how we are using our CARES funding as we have available. We’ve been posting weekly summaries at ramseycounty.us/coronavirus and are developing a feature on our open data portal that will detail our expenditures in a way that’s both comprehensive and easy to navigate.  

Together, RISE efforts underscore our commitment to supporting our community through this pandemic. We’ve aligned our efforts within the county and with partners and community to provide comprehensive supports – and to do so promptly and responsively. This has not been easy! Thanks to all for the hard work and long hours to move this work forward in service of our Ramsey County residents and businesses.