PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The impending closure of one of Rhode Island’s five career centers for the unemployed will create further hardships in some of the communities hardest hit by the state’s persistently high jobless rate, activists and users of the center said Wednesday.
About two dozen people gathered outside the netWORKri center on Main Street in Pawtucket to call on the state Department of Labor and Training to find funding to keep the facility open beyond Thursday.
Users of the center, which serves mainly Pawtucket and Central Falls, said that it offers critical and convenient job-search services and that not everyone who goes there will be able to access facilities in Providence or Woonsocket, the closest job centers.
‘‘We’re not asking for handouts. We’re asking for a hand up that will help our families,’’ said Antonio Ballestas, a Pawtucket resident who has used the center to find work.
Charles Fogarty, the director of the Department of Labor and Training, has called the decision to close the center difficult but necessary, citing a reduction in federal funding. The center had been slated to close in April, but additional money was secured.
The state — which has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, at 10.8 percent — also operates centers in West Warwick and Wakefield. The career centers provide resources ranging from Internet access and resume-writing help to skills training and assistance filing unemployment insurance claims.
A Department of Labor and Training spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
Employees of the Pawtucket office have been reassigned to the other locations. State officials say they plan to offer job search workshops for people who used the shuttered center at the nearby Pawtucket library.
Pawtucket resident Stanley Banach III was let go from his job as a baker in Lincoln in May. He lives nearby and walks to the center for the free computers to look for other work — so far unsuccessfully.
‘‘I would do anything at this point,’’ he said.
Taking the bus would eat up some of the money he uses to pay his bills, he said; plus, he has a 20-month-old child he would have to drag along for the trip.
State Senator Elizabeth Crowley, a Democrat who represents Central Falls and Pawtucket, called the closure ‘‘short-sighted’’ and a ‘‘disservice’’ and asked Governor Lincoln Chafee to stop it from closing.
Rhode Island’s unemployed have seen their jobless benefits pared back in recent months. As of July, the state was no longer eligible for the so-called state extended benefits unemployment program because of new jobless data.
The number of weeks to collect federal emergency unemployment benefits also just fell, from 53 to 47. The program is being phased out nationally by year’s end.
Regular unemployment insurance provides for 26 weeks of benefits. The total number of weeks of available unemployment in Rhode Island is now 73, according to the state.