City enters agreement for senior job program

By HASKEL BURNS,

Hattiesburg residents 55 years of age or older will have a unique opportunity to enter the workforce, thanks to an agreement between the city and the Southern Mississippi Planning & Development District.

Hattiesburg City Council members recently voted to allow the city to serve as host agency for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, a federal initiative offered by Senior Service America aimed at helping low-income senior earn wages with working in local programs in their community. Opportunities available for applicants include positions such as clerical or tele-service work.

As sponsor agency for the program, SMPDD is responsible for hiring and paying the workers, while city officials will take charge of training employees.

“It’s a win-win for us,” said Ann Jones, chief administrative officer for the city. “We’re afforded extra employees that we don’t have to pay for; it’s provided to us through SMPDD.

“We’re able to have a mature employee for 20 hours a week in areas that sometimes, we may not have enough employees. Or they may be times of the year to where there’s maybe an excessive amount of work that the regular work staff can’t cover, and this helps augment that work load.”

Participants in the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is authorized by Title V of the Older Americans Act, are limited to 20 work hours per week. City officials are responsible for monitoring workers’ hours and turning in that information to SMPDD at the end of each pay cycle.

The city also is in charge of designating supervisors for workers, providing orientation and giving first consideration to employing enrollees when openings occur for which they are qualified or assist in facilitating entry into the competitive labor market.

The program also may lead to full-time or permanent position for participants.

“If that became available, they would just be a natural fit into that role permanently,” Jones said. “And that’s the ultimate goal of the program, is to place these mature workers in a role that can increase their skills and help connect them to either us or other permanent employment.”

Individuals can apply for the program by contacting SMPDD at (601) 545-2137 or (228) 868-2311.