CAMDEN, NJ — From March 1 to July 31 - a peak time for the coronavirus pandemic - local program Camden Works helped to find employment for 223 residents in the public and private sectors. 

This, added to another 314 residents who were recently placed, comes at a time when many in the Garden State remain unemployed.

According to Cooper’s Ferry Partnership (CFP), which released the latest employment report Tuesday, Camden city’s unemployment rate prior to the pandemic was the lowest it had been in 28 years: 7.7%. 

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Right now, that figure stands at 20.8%. Over 1.56 million people in New Jersey have filed for unemployment means the rate is likely worse than reported.

The issue is exasperated by the many barriers faced by Camden city residents, he noted.

“There are multiple barriers like healthcare and housing. Transportation ranks the highest but also re-entry - that’s where the Volunteers of America (VOA) has been a huge partner in helping prepare people with the abilities they need before an opportunity comes up,” CFP President and CEO Khris Kolluri told TAPinto Camden over the phone.

Kolluri said the Camden-based non-profit was able to solve the transportation issue for 14 residents hoping to work for Action Pak, a packaging supply company with recent openings in Bristol, Pennsylvania.

“With financial help from the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership Board, the Camden Works team worked diligently with Camden County and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to organize shuttle buses to take Camden residents to Action Pak,” Kolluri wrote in a letter Tuesday outlining the findings to Camden Mayor Frank Moran, Congressman Donald Norcross, Freeholder Jonathan Young and City Council President Curtis Jenkins. 

Camden Works — a four-year private pilot to connect people with training opportunities and employment — first launched last October, with funding from Norcross, American Water and Wells Fargo. 

It is overseen by CFP, as well as the New Jersey National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Latin American Economic Development Association (LAEDA), Center for Family Services (CFS), Volunteers of America Delaware Valley (VOA), Camden County Workforce Development Board (CCWDB) and Hopeworks.

“There are many others doing the same things we are, as far as connecting residents to resources to better their lives. We welcome their work and are grateful for their partnership,” Kolluri said.

When it was launched, the pilot set out to find 100 Camden residents jobs every year - a benchmark it has so far exceeded.

“As we look ahead, the partners who make up Camden Works are fully cognizant that the challenges of placing residents in employment opportunities during an ongoing pandemic and consequent economic fallout is a tall order,” Kolluri wrote in today’s letter. “A secure employment opportunity is a path towards and a contributing factor to achieving racial, economic and social justice.”

Below is a breakdown of industry classification for the new employment placement:

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