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Future uncertain at Career Futures after DPHHS, Gianforte enact changes

Posted at 7:26 AM, Feb 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-12 15:49:49-05

BUTTE — An organization with a long history of helping link employers with skilled workers in the Mining City and surrounding counties says its future is uncertain after changes made at the state level may impact its business.

Career Futures Inc. located in Uptown Butte has been helping set people on career paths for the last four decades in the Mining City and in the counties surrounding Butte. But after decisions made in 2023 by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and Governor Greg Gianforte, the leader of this organization says that the future of Career Futures is uncertain.

"We don't know if someone who is a statewide provider—because they don't have to partner with us—if they will because of that uncertainty we are looking at the possibility of having to close our doors after 38 years at the end of June," says Sarah DeMoney, the executive director of Career Futures Inc.

At the end of January, Montana DPHHS offered Maximus US Serves the intent to award employment and training services to Montanans receiving SNAP food services and TANF cash assistance which are programs accessed by low-income families.

"The state has changed from 12 service providers to one statewide service provider," says DeMoney.

And the state has decided that instead of 12 providers that offer in-person services, there will now only be five providers. The areas not considered urban will have to participate in a virtual system.

"Unfortunately Butte is not considered urban, so we are not considered part of that physical presence," says DeMoney.

Currently, the 10 employees at Career Futures Inc. travel to all counties in southwest Montana to meet face-to-face with clients and Sarah says eliminating the in-person meetings means clients will likely have to participate virtually to fulfill requirements to access programs.

"Virtual means you must have Internet access or a telephone. A lot of our people do not have Internet access, they may not have a smart phone, they also live in areas that Internet access is not available to them. So virtual means they may not be receiving any services."

"They were there to help and they helped me when I needed them most," says Dakota Stormo.

Stormo says when he and his family arrived in Butte over a decade ago, he was struggling to make ends meet. At the time that he was seeking help, he didn't have access to the Internet or to the type of training that he needed. Career Futures Inc. helped him with his resume and with gas and tires and they helped him purchase a computer.

"In the short time that I needed the assistance through Career Futures I was able to find employment which led directly to the job I'm holding now as an e-commerce manager. I have a staff of five. If growth continues to grow at the rate it has in the last few years we should expect six-figure sales in the next four to five years," says Stormo.

"The nice things about was that they were there, they were present and we could talk to them as people and they cared what we needed to do and to get us going."

DeMoney says it's still unclear if and how the state will work with providers like Career Futures and the organization is at risk of closing its doors.