A state office in Lebanon that helps people with disabilities find employment will close in December. It’s the latest in multiple closings of state agencies in the city within the past decade.
Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Valley News reporter Nora Doyle-Burr about how the closing of the employment office will affect people living in the Upper Valley.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
What exactly did this office provide for people living in Lebanon in the surrounding towns?
It provided services such as job counseling. It helped people with disabilities to access funds to help them with assistance at their site of employment. So if they needed some sort of physical aid that might help them perform their job.
So what’s led to the closing?
The State Department of Education, which operates the vocational rehabilitation centers across the state, has said that the lease was up on this office space, and that they'll be able to provide these services. Just in terms of this vocational rehabilitation centers around the state, Frank Edelblut, the education commissioner, said that as leases come due for other locations, he'll consider closing the physical offices.
And state officials are saying that this really wouldn't make too much of a difference anyway. New Hampshire unemployment rates are relatively low. And some community leaders have said this would have a negative impact though. So can you tell us more about that?
Service providers in the city that I spoke with about this change, one at West Central Behavioral Health said that she did think that this would be a transportation problem, and that she herself would probably end up driving people to Claremont. So that would take away time that she might otherwise spend serving other clients. And then the community leaders are concerned because they've they've already seen some state offices leave the city, including an office that provides similar employment assistance to people without disabilities. That office went to Claremont's and then the city also had a Department of Motor Vehicles office close and a Department of Human Services office close.
How have those closings and relocations affected residents in the upper valley?
It's been a struggle to get employment assistance. You know some of the folks who are unemployed don't have transportation. So it can be difficult to get to Claremont to access those services. And then I guess the other office that had closed was the Department of Human Services Office, which was a site where people could go for assistance in signing up for Medicaid and Medicare. And so that sort of combined now with the employment services, and the DMV for these non-driver photo I.D. cards sort of feels like a hit to the disability community all combined.