Pleasanton Weekly

Column - August 6, 2010

Hundreds have a job thanks to Elissa Wolf

by Jeb Bing

Elissa Wolf is a candidate recruiter for the Tri-Valley Community Foundation who wrapped up final interviews last week of qualified job seekers needing help through the American Family Recovery Project. Her work involved sorting through hundreds of applications for employment help from those who have been out of work to see if they were eligible for special federal and local funding in a program that ends Sept. 30. Those qualified for placement had to have their applications approved by last Monday.

The project has used federal stimulus funding to get family wage earners in the Alameda County cities of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore back to work, and to help Tri-Valley employers grow their businesses. It has benefited employers by providing referrals of job candidates already interviewed and qualified by Wolf and her Community Foundation team. Once hired, the new employee's job is subsidized at the rate of 80 percent including payroll taxes with no limit on the number of positions a company could fill through this program. Although the subsidies run out Sept. 30, Wolf said many of those she has placed have been hired on a permanent basis by their employers.

Wolfe said the program especially targeted wage earners whose ability to support their families had been threatened by the loss of a job during the economic downturn. One unemployed worker who received a job through the program recently sent her a note of thanks, saying that Wolf's efforts had not only found her a temporary job through the program, but one that led to full-time employment after Sept. 30. "Your good work enabled me to maintain my skill set in a tough economy, but also helped me learn new skills in a different industry."

As part of the program, the federal government provided California with $1.8 billion for job creation. Hearing of the allocation, Supervisor Scott Haggerty moved quickly, obtaining a lion's share of the funds for Alameda County, one of only eight in the state that bothered to register for the project. The Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund then partnered with the Tri-Valley Regional Initiative, a collaborative economic recovery initiative sponsored through the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, the Tri-Valley Business Council and Haggerty, raising the match for 2009 to 4-to-1. When the campaign closed in early January, the Weekly had raised a record-high $93,346 in direct contributions and matching funds totaling $373,386 to provide Wolf funds for the initiative she was launching.

The funds were designated for temporary assistance to needy families, including a strong employment development component. Wolf's job was to identify and evaluate the needs of families hardest hit by the economic downturn and help them directly with housing, job training, medical care and other basic necessities. Although the bulk of the direct contributions to the Holiday Fund and its 4-to-1 matches went to Wolf's program and the strict guidelines she had to follow, the Weekly reserved $50,000 to go to three of the Holiday Fund's local nonprofits, Axis Community Health, Open Heart Kitchen and Tri-Valley Haven, which met the criteria that they provide "wrap around" services for families as approved by the Tri-Valley Regional Initiative.

For Wolf, selecting those eligible was tough. Although at times there were more employers willing to participate than jobseekers, the restrictions limited the number she could approve. To qualify for the program, jobseekers had to be parents of a child under 18. They had to be eligible to work in the U.S., and their household income in the past month had to be below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (less than $3,675 a month for a family of four).

Wolf did more than job placement. She conducted training sessions at the Foundation's offices to prepare candidates for their interviews, helped them write specific resumes, and answered their questions by cell phone, often as the jobseeker was heading into his potential employer's human resources office. They also kept in touch as she fielded questions on specific problems her candidate was facing, and she worked with both that individual and the employer to develop full-time job opportunities for when the program and the 80 percent payroll subsidy ends on Sept. 30. With a success rate of nearly 100 percent, Wolf and the Community Foundation have several hundred new supporters to help in their fundraising efforts in the months ahead to meet ongoing needs in 2011.


Posted by Juan, a resident of Las Positas
on Aug 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Jeb Bing's story on Elissa Wolf was informative of the program that helped many in the valley get jobs, but Ms. Wolf was not the only one to work in the program to help families and businesses. I know that the standards of objective journalism no longer exist, but it seems that it would be worthwhile to do a complete story and not just a puff piece lauding the work of one individual when others did just as much work.

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