By Joel Hall
Expanding on the idea of the traditional job fair, the office of U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) hosted its first-ever Economic Recovery Exposition on Friday at the Georgia International Convention Center.
In addition to connecting people with potential employers, the exposition showed locals how to best leverage government funds to receive foreclosure protection, health insurance, and unemployment benefits.
Scott said that through the American Recovery and Investment Act, $787 billion has been made available to communities across the country to protect people negatively impacted by the national recession.
He said he believes Friday's exposition helped locals find resources to address the myriad of problems caused by joblessness.
"The economy has been so devastating in many areas," he said. "People are not only loosing their jobs, but losing their homes. Congress has thrown a whole bunch of money into the situation. People have been seeing on the news that the banks are being bailed out and the auto industry is being bailed out, but are asking, 'What is in it for me?' This a chance to see what the government is doing."
Representatives from the Georgia Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Internal Revenue Service, the Housing Authority of Clayton County, and the Clayton County Foreclosure Resource Center joined other organizations in: Referring those at risk of foreclosure to housing counseling; conducting loan and grant seminars for small business owners; helping those laid off apply for extended health and unemployment benefits; and offering short-term training programs for people making the transition to new careers.
In addition, about 70 employers accepted applications for immediately available jobs.
Of the hundreds of people who came to the exposition, many had been hard hit by the state of the economy. Until recently, Breandalyn Anderson, an unemployed mother of three from Riverdale, was working as a health information technician at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. She said not having a job has caused her to fall behind on her mortgage, home repairs, and other vital necessities.
"I was working for Grady hospital, but I got laid off," Anderson said. "There is hardly enough food to keep around for my kids. I've had to go into my daughter's college savings to make some of the ends meet. I used to be able to find a job like nothing ... It's just really hard."
David Barton, programs coordinator for the Clayton County Foreclosure Resource Center, said he discovered during the exposition that many victims of the foreclosure crisis are renters whose landlords have failed to pay rent. He said the exposition was educational for government agencies, and may help them find better ways to locally address the troubled economy.
"We found out that about one-third of the people being foreclosed on are renters whose landlords are late on their payments," Barton said. "We have funds to help people who have gotten evicted and have nowhere to go. We're asking the Sheriff's Department to pass out that information when they come by with a writ of possession."
Jeanaye Wilson, a student at Clayton State University attending the exposition, believes it will be the start of many local people being able to access stimulus funds more easily. "I think a lot of people are kind of lost, because a lot of the traditional things aren't working right now," Wilson said. "It is very hard to know what to do and where to go. This is one of those programs that lends itself to the average person finding out about what the government is doing."
Anderson said that while she believes the economy is still slow, she was reassured by the exposition. "I feel encouraged now that I see a lot of opportunity," she said. "Hopefully, something good will come out of it."