DANVILLE — Due to COVID-19, across the entire company of Central Illinois Produce, more than half of its employees were initially laid off.
That was 70 of the company’s 130 employees. In Danville, in which the company was called Vermilion Valley Produce, seven employees were laid off, according to John Rollins, president/CEO of Central Illinois Produce in Danville, Urbana and Morton.
“We are back up to 74 active employees on our payroll with some of them part time. Due to a new USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) program we are a part of, we have hired 25 temps across the company to start next week with most of them based in Danville (22) to assist in packaging boxes for food banks,” Rollins also reported.
“If the program remains funded for the rest of the year our outlook is excellent. Long term I think it will be a while before we reach full employment again because I anticipate 20 percent to 40 percent of restaurants won’t ever reopen and those that do will not be busy until a vaccine is created. I think it will be a slow process.”
Rollins said he’s proud of their efforts to regroup and build back up.
“Initially our sales dropped 90 percent. I’d say we are down about 35 percent at this point in time,” according to Rollins.
Central Illinois Produce, a wholesale products distributor, is located at 310 South St., and distributes bulk and processed fruits and vegetables, specialty produce items, fresh herbs, salads and soups, in addition to dairy products.
Other businesses and organizations, such as in the healthcare field, have seen layoffs and temporary furloughs of employees.
Bose Corp. of Danville, 300 Eastgate Drive, known for making headphones and speakers systems, is another one. While a representative said they couldn’t share details of their workforce, the spokesperson said “Bose like other companies is taking the necessary steps to respond to the pandemic. We’re following applicable guidelines, and operations are continuing at our Danville location.”
At the Boys & Girls Club of Danville, 14 employees are not working.
Executive Director Rob Gifford said those employees filed for unemployment, but a couple couldn’t get through and one gave up.
For minimum wage employees, they can collect more money on unemployment right now due to the $600 weekly supplement.
Unemployment numbers aren’t pretty nationwide; but how bad is it really in Vermilion County now compared to initially in March, how much worse could it get or will it get better slowly or quickly for some sectors has yet to be determined.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security released Illinois unemployment numbers on Thursday. Danville and other metro area numbers will be released next week.
Nationally, the unemployment rate was 14.7 percent for April.
“We’re probably in double digits,” American Job Center Executive Director Brian Hensgen estimated earlier this week.
Danville saw an unemployment rate of about 4 percent last month.
Businesses continue to make adjustments.
Montana Mike’s restaurant has announced it’s closed permanently in Danville.
Danville City Clerk Lisa Monson, who deals with liquor and business licenses, says she’s not aware of any other businesses closing permanently.
To help those unemployed, the American Job Center and Vermilion County Works, 407 N. Franklin St. and through Danville Area Community College and various partners, offer a variety of services.
The center has been closed to the public due to COVID-19, but staff are still answering phone calls and there is online assistance.
The AJC provides free services for people looking for jobs and for employers, with Vermilion County Works, one of the partners with the AJC, also providing job training programs and services.
Hensgen said this is an unprecedented time, and “we are trying to put our finger on a moving target it seems.”
Hensgen said in a shelter-in-place society, it’s been harder to get in touch with some people, but they’ve tried to assist residents in getting the services and support they need.
Jonathan Jett, Vermilion County Works director, said they created a virtual online rapid response packet for laid off employees. It has information about the job center, and offers help with unemployment benefits, job training assistance, public aid and housing and other services.
Vermilion County Works can be reached at 217-442-0296, ext. 101.
With more than one million unemployment claims processed in Illinois during the last several weeks, the unemployment system has continued to be inundated with unemployment benefit requests.
“Obviously they are still trying to play catchup,” Hensgen said about the state-run organization, adding that local officials are trying their best to help residents.
Due to there no longer being an IDES unemployment office in Danville, in-person meetings have to take place at the Champaign office.
Hensgen said once they can reopen services in Danville, they’ll continue to do their best to connect residents to resources and get answers to questions.
In the meantime, online resources and new virtual services continue. Sources include www.illinoisworknet.com and www.dacc.edu/depts/vcw and www.careeronestop.org. There also is the www.illinois.gov/gethired website. Those unemployed can find online tutorials, online chat boxes to ask questions and virtual job fairs.
Vermilion Advantage’s job board remains updated at www.vermilionadvantage.com.
Job sectors across the board are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“They’re getting hit hard,” Jett said about retailers and restaurants, and adding that manufacturers also have had temporary and permanent layoffs.
Most temporary layoffs are with the hope of bringing back the employees, he added.
Hensgen said “every industry is being touched by this situation.” He said there isn’t any industry that’s immune.
Hensgen and Jett advise those unemployed to continue to reach out to local agencies for assistance through telephone or face-to-face meetings when those are allowed again. They are there to help individuals, get them access to computer equipment, complete assessments and will help refer people to services.
Just because their doors have been closed, they said they and their 10 other partner agencies still want to make sure the community is taken care of.
“We’re still here and continue to reach out,” Hensgen said. “We’ll do our best to help. We are prepared to do what we can to expand.”
Hensgen said they and their partners also continue to monitor potential grant opportunities to secure extra funding to bring more resources locally to help businesses reopen and help employees.
Jett added that they know many people are frustrated, but “don’t give up; keep calling, keep trying.”