JOPLIN, Mo. — With approximately 2,000 structures impacted by Sunday's deadly and destructive tornado that ravaged the city of Joplin, Mo., the economic hub of Southwest Missouri, the question for many workers is "do I have a job?"
The 2,000-estimate includes homes, apartments and small or large businesses in the storm's path, which ranged approximately 12 blocks wide from the north to south, and several miles west to east.
The tornado's path included major destruction to one of the region's two major hospitals, St. John's Regional Medical Center, as well as several medical offices, small businesses, restaurants, a Dillon's grocery store, and big box stores such as two Walgreens, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Home Depot, one of the town's two Walmart Supercenters, and other multi-store shopping centers.
The Missouri Labor Department and the Department of Economic Development have organized three locations throughout the city of Joplin to help jobless victims file for unemployment claims and receive re-employment services.
During a 4 p.m. press conference and community meeting Thursday at Missouri Southern State University, which has served as a hub for information and assistance for victims and the community in the wake of the tornado, officials with the Missouri Department of Labor met with residents of not only Joplin but the surrounding community concerned whether or not they are presently employed.
During her presentation to the more than 1,000 citizens that filled Taylor Auditorium, the Department of Labor's Maida Coleman asked for a show of hands of those who fear they could be without employment due to the tornado. Several hundred people in attendance raised their hand.
Coleman urged all citizens who fear they could be unemployed due to their place of employment being damaged or destroyed by the tornado to file unemployment paperwork to being the process.
At the end of Thursday's community meeting at MSSU, the citizens in attendance had a chance to visit one-on-one with officials with several state, federal and volunteer organizations from the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Revenue to get new driver's licenses or other forms of ID, and information on services such as child care, counseling and housing options.
"Anyone here who has become unemployed as a result of the tornado, whether you were self-employed or working for someone, should apply for unemployment benefits," Coleman said. "The payment of unemployment payments can be made to anyone who was unemployed or self-employed who lived, worked or was to begin a job in the disaster area. There is criteria that must be met, and that will be explained by the people we have here."