In Economic Mobility, Systems Change

On July 1, 2022, the EcSA program began serving residents in Wahkiakum County. The program expansion aims to help people experiencing poverty and individuals from historically excluded groups in rural areas obtain quality employment and wrap-around support services.

EcSA is now serving Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties

Originally launched in 2020 in the Highlands and South Kelso neighborhoods of Longview, WA in Cowlitz County, the goal of EcSA is to help lift individuals and their families out of poverty while providing them with support services while they do so. The program focused on the two neighborhoods based on wage and employment data. Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) was chosen as one of four workforce development boards in Washington state to pilot the program, with state funding from the Economic Security for All (EcSA) grant.

EcSA launched in a dynamic partnership with WSW, the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (Lower Columbia CAP), Neighborhood Resource Coordinating Council (NRCC) and WorkSource. Other valuable partners include the Department of Social and Health Services, and Lower Columbia College, among .

Early into the COVID-19 pandemic, EcSA expanded from the two neighborhoods to residents in all of Cowlitz County. The first expansion created greater access to employment services and wrap-around supports across the county in a time of critical unemployment, housing and food insecurity, and many challenges with access to resources and in-person contact due to the spread of COVID-19.

In July 2022, the Washington State legislature approved funding to continue the EcSA program from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023.The increased and renewed funding allows the program model to be expanded and replicated to reach a greater number of people from vulnerable populations in rural areas across both Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

EcSA’s three-pronged strategy, including training to move residents into higher-wage jobs, employer participation and support services, and neighborhood revitalization, takes a wholistic to bring services and opportunities to rural populations. To combat existing barriers such as inflation, increased transportation costs and lack of childcare, the EcSA program meets participants where they are, providing help with challenges in life that can slow or stop the search for employment. Eligible participants can receive assistance with transportation, housing, childcare, uniforms or other work-related costs such as tools, and food, among others. Individuals interested in enrolling in EcSA are encouraged to contact a WorkSource case manager or Erica Zink at Employ Wahkiakum more information about these and other supports available.

Through the program, customers can receive employment and career help with creating a resume, cover letter and filling out a job application. The program supports customers in conducting a job search, enrolling in training and getting placed in a job. Along the way, EcSA provides individuals with all the supports that are necessary to increase access for participants experiencing poverty. EcSA strives to reach individuals and families that have otherwise not been able to access training, employment and/or support services.

EcSA support services include:

Gas assistance

Transportation assistance and car repairs

Childcare assistance

Professional clothing for interviews

Work and/or training gear and tools

Glasses or other medical expenses

Rent assistance

Other resources necessary for success

During the pilot program in 2020-2022, EcSA collaborated with the Neighborhood Resource Coordinating Council (NRCC) and Habitat for Humanity Cowlitz. The partnership is one way the EcSA program invites participants to have a voice in the program’s design, services, and evaluation. The community organizers in the Highlands and South Kelso neighborhoods utilized surveys, neighborhood newsletters and customer feedback to refine the program to fit the needs of the community it serves. The program emphasizes grassroots involvement and is innately customer-centric, with substantial involvement from local community organizers.

EcSA Eligibility

To be eligible for the EcSA program, applicants must meet the following requirements:

From households that are below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level

Be 18 years of age or older

Be registered for the selective service, if applicable

Questions about if you qualify? WorkSource staff will help you determine your eligibility.

Kristi Williams, Program Supervisor at WorkSource Cowlitz/Wahkiakum works hands-on with the EcSA program. “People don’t just want jobs, they want careers,” Williams said of program participants. In her experience, the most popular trainings provided by the program include Commercial Driver’s License Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant and Registered Nurse. These trainings lead to high-paying, in-demand, quality jobs in Southwest Washington.

Of participants that Williams has worked with, many have been unhoused previous to entering the program. Before getting participants to work, Williams and her team make sure that customers are taken care of with support services to set them up for success, they then work with a case manager to create a job plan. The job plan ensures they will get any necessary training and get on track to find a quality career.

“The EcSA program provides value to participants by working one-on-one with a case manager to understand their individual needs and goals. The participants start to build trust and hope with their case manager to help give them support and guidance needed for getting out of poverty. Without having a coach by their side, sometimes they lose sight of their potential. The case manager is there to help them navigate and remove roadblocks that get in the way so they can reach their full potential.” – Kristi Williams, Program Supervisor at WorkSource Cowlitz/Wahkiakum

Participants can continue to take part in the EcSA program and take advantage of support services after placement in a job. Williams’ goal is that all participants have plans to advance and achieve long-term self-sufficiency and has seen this in the EcSA program results.

Since the program’s inception, EcSA has served 200 residents across Cowlitz County. Most participants so far are women from the 98626 (South Kelso neighborhood) and 98632 (Highlands neighborhood) zip codes. The average education level of a participant is a high school diploma or GED/equivalency. The EcSA program serves participants across cultures and provides language services according to participants’ needs. If participants need translation services, EcSA has access to a language line via telephone and access to scheduled, in-person interpreters.

Compared to Cowlitz, Wahkiakum County’s population live in more rural areas and the working population is smaller. As of April 2022, Wahkiakum County has a worker base of 1,348, compared to 49,497 in Cowlitz County. With the expansion into Wahkiakum County, the EcSA program will serve more individuals across Workforce Southwest Washington’s rural service regions. Expanding services allows for more individuals to get the support services necessary to finding a quality job to support themselves and their families. Residents of Wahkiakum County are encouraged to get in touch with case managers to talk about their eligibility and how EcSA can serve their needs and career goals.

Interested in participating in the EcSA Program? Get in touch with any of the contacts below to get information about EcSA.

– Erica Zink at Employ Wahkiakum at

– Kristi Williams at WorkSource Cowlitz/Wahkiakum at . Call WorkSource at 360.577.2250 or visit the office at 305 S Pacific Avenue, Suite 101 Kelso, WA 98626

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