Getting Delawareans Back to Work

JFS Launches the Employment Support Network for Delawareans Impacted by COVID-19

More than 100,000 people in Delaware have filed for unemployment since COVID-19 became a public health crisis. In response to the significantly increased need for holistic support services, Jewish Family Services of Delaware recently launched the Employment Support Network, an innovative, trauma-informed approach to support Delawareans struggling with the complex challenges of sudden unemployment.

With a long-standing reputation for meeting the changing needs of our community, JFS quickly recognized the need to respond vigorously and innovatively to the pandemic as many of our clients, friends, neighbors, and colleagues are experiencing increased anxiety and mental health challenges while navigating employment changes, food and housing insecurity, and social and economic hardships.

As a social service agency providing mental health support in various forms, it is difficult for JFS to ignore how unemployment leads not only to a lack of resources, but also to psychological trauma; those who find themselves suddenly unemployed often suffer a deep loss of identity and self-esteem and interpret such an event as an irreversible failure. These threats to emotional stability can lead to increased depression, anxiety, and substance abuse; this, paired with the challenges of unemployment, fracture the social fabric on which many rely, isolating individuals from their peers, support systems, and financial resources. Data from Delaware’s public health officials indicates this spiral is occurring.

After sudden job loss, individuals are directed to collect employment assistance from the Department of Labor. However, the current unemployment system fails to address the concurrent loss of insurance and elevated trauma of those filing for unemployment; professional emotional support is not prioritized.

Additionally, our mental health system lacks the coordination and capacity to address trauma and stress caused by unemployment at this scale.

The importance of taking a more comprehensive approach to unemployment caused by the pandemic is further magnified by the fact that this has already proven to be more than a temporary challenge. Many of the jobs lost during the initial waves of COVID-19 will likely not return and, as such, families will need additional support systems to help them navigate uncertain terrain; they need help building the strategy, network, and confidence required to weather these tumultuous times and regain their footing.

Through a collaborative partnership with Social Contract, Delaware 211, the United Way of Delaware, Stand By Me, and the State Office of Volunteerism, Jewish Family Services of Delaware now has a program to address such challenges for these individuals highly impacted by the pandemic.

The Employment Support Network assists Delawareans who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 through one-on-one emotional wellness support, job search and financial coaching, mental health resources and referrals, and help navigating social services.

“Due to the sheer magnitude of the current crisis, the unemployment system is not equipped to address the holistic needs of individuals and their families, especially during this unique crisis,” said Latasha Coley, Program Manager of the Employment Support Network. “The isolation and despair from unemployment can derail families and disconnect them from the community… we need a system that specifically links mental health providers to those recently unemployed and works to rebuild community connectedness.”

The Employment Support Network connects unemployed individuals to an interdisciplinary team of trained staff and volunteers dedicated to helping each client meet their personal and professional goals. Through personalized coaching, strategic goal-setting, weekly communication, and emotional support, the team helps each program participant build their network and social capital, increase confidence and access to resources, and take the necessary steps towards regaining employment and overall stability.

“We understand the impact sudden unemployment can have on someone’s financial stability and emotional well-being and JFS is committed to helping those individuals and families,” said Basha Silverman, Chief Executive Officer of JFS. “We are proud to launch the Employment Support Network to help our community overcome such unprecedented challenges caused by COVID, and thrilled to do so through an innovative, volunteer-driven program which prioritizes holistic healing and progress.”

In addition to the collaborative effort made to develop and launch the program, the Employment Support Network has received significant support from community funders to make this relief program possible and help Delawarean’s re-enter the workforce with confidence.

“Jewish Family Services of Delaware continues to deliver outstanding programs to our community and the Employment Support Network has been introduced at a critical time,” said Nick Moriello, President of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware, one of the program’s major funders. “We look forward to partnering with JFS in getting our fellow Delawareans back to work.”