Since the recession began, policymakers have been looking for new ways to connect the unemployed with work. The Bloomberg administration now believes it's found a powerful new tool to accomplish this goal: TXT-2-Work which sends text messages about job listings directly into the hands of unemployed New Yorkers.
One of those now receiving those text messages is Crystal Sampson.
"For the past, a little over two years, it's been kinda rough," Sampson said, explaining that she lost a job as a manager in a clothing store when the retailer downsized. "And I have 2 girls. Single parent."
On a dreary, wet morning, Sampson was waiting for her second round of interviews for a bank teller position at a branch in Tribeca.
"I have my resume, my cover letter, even a thank you letter, just in case I get the job," she said.
Sampson learned about the opening from a short text message which read:
Business Link is recruiting bank teller must have 6 month exp cash
handling with in retail/check cashing & HS/GED to apply 2/4 @ 9:30 to
348 W 34th St.
Business Link is a city-run employment bureau.
Katy Gaul, deputy commissioner for employment at the city's Human Resources Administration, said the texts are written as a call to action "meeting the client right where they are, getting the information right in your pocket." Gaul added, it's how people talk to one another these days. "That’s the way I communicate with my friends, the way I communicate with my family."
HRA used to send announcements about recruitment events by standard mail two weeks before an event. That long time horizon, however, meant that many employers looking to hire people faster weren’t interested in working with the agency.
Some of the businesses posting jobs openings through the TXT-2-Work program include the Barclays Center, Applebee's, the Soho Grand Hotel, and Citarella.
The feedback, Gaul said, has been good. "We did have a home healthcare agency that was really shocked and surprised we were able to send 30 people the next day when they had asked for home health aides."
TXT-2-Work was developed by Brooklyn-based Mobile Commons using a text message program that has also been used by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the 2012 Obama campaign (and WNYC).
It's available only to public benefits recipients, including 1.8 million food stamps users and three million people on Medicaid. So far, almost four thousand recipients have signed up for program. As the program is so new, HRA does not yet know how many people have found work. And because many of the jobs are short-term or part-time, the jobs may only do so much to improve people’s economic well-being.
Crystal Sampson felt positive about her second interview at the bank branch. But after several weeks passed and she hadn't received an offer, she accepted another job with the New York City Department of Sanitation. She found that position without the help of TXT-2-Work; finding a job was what mattered most.
"I'm very happy,” Sampson said. "Overwhelmed, but I’m happy"