The East Texas Council of Governments has planned a soft re-opening for the East Texas Workforce Center in Athens, Executive Director David Cleveland said.

ETCOG has set the opening for the Athens location for Monday, June 22, the same date as the Tyler location.

The opening will allow face-to-face meetings with people who for various reasons can not do so remotely. The meetings will be by appointment only.

The announcement was made at the Executive Committee Meeting on June 11. ETCOG meets at its headquarters in Kilgore. Precinct 3 Commissioner Chuck McHam represents Henderson County on the committee.

The East Texas Region has been hit by increased unemployment since the COVID-19 closings and restrictions were announced.

"The Workforce Centers have been doing business all through the COVID-19 crisis, only they've been doing it virtually," Cleveland said.

Essential information for job seekers have been available outside the Athens office on Murchison Street.

Henderson County had its largest number of new unemployment claims on April 4, with 545. The trend has gone downward to 225, on May 23. It crept upward to 266 and 244 the past two weeks.

ETCOG serves as the administrative agency for Workforce Solutions East Texas

Workforce Solutions East Texas is one of 28 located throughout the state. The East Texas division serves Henderson, Van Zandt, Rains, Wood, Upshur, Camp, Marion, Harrison, Panola, Gregg, Rusk, Cherokee, Anderson and Smith counties. The East Texas Council of Governments serves as the administrating agency of the Workforce Solutions East Texas Board.

ETCOG is observing its 50th birthday in June, but a formal celebration has been put off until 2021. The date of the event is yet to be determined.

"Hopefully, next summer about this time, we'll be in the clear," Cleveland said.

ETCOG is a voluntary association of counties, cities, school districts and special districts within the fourteen-county region.

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