DES MOINES, Iowa -- It was a controversial move in 2011 when Governor Terry Branstad chose to close down the state's unemployment offices and replace them with more than 700 self-help kiosks around the state.
But now, those kiosks aren't even being serviced or tracked by Iowa Workforce Development. The Des Moines Register first reported the kiosks were abandoned Friday, prompting a response from Governor Branstad's Communications Director, Ben Hammes.
"This is an old issue that dates back before Director Townsend," he said. "Our relentless focus on economic development and providing good paying jobs across Iowa have led to unemployment in Iowa dropping to 3.6 percent, well below the national average. We are interested in looking forward and are confident in Iowa Workforce Development and their focus on utilizing technology to provide the best service to Iowans in all areas of our state."
Iowa Workforce Development officials say, because of technology advancements, these kiosks had become obsolete. The virtual access point, once only accessible via kiosk computer, can now be logged into from any Internet-connected device.
"The majority of calls we have received about the kiosks in the past few years have been a request for us to pick up the equipment because it's no longer necessary to access the virtual access page that provides the service to Iowans," said Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development.
But some labor activists are crying foul, saying that without a public announcement that these kiosks would no longer be serviced or tracked, this is another slant against unemployed Iowans.
"When they decided they were going to close those offices, we actually fought against that," said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor. "In the alternative, when they put the kiosk in, that was a pretty big disappointment, at the time. And now, the fact that we are fundamentally throwing the kiosk out the window, too, it's kind of like asking Iowans to, 'Go help yourself.'"