The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a total of $27 million in National Emergency Grant awards to four key states to assist workers along the Gulf Coast who have been displaced as a result of the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The states are Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
“Working families in the Gulf Coast have been dealt a tremendous blow by this oil spill, and they are facing serious long-term challenges. They need and deserve our help now,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “From the start, we have been actively engaged in ensuring workers tackling the cleanup are kept safe and healthy. These grants will help those still looking for work find jobs that are good, safe, and will help the region’s economy get back on track.”
The funds are being granted to workforce agencies in the four states experiencing economic hardship as a result of wage decline and job loss in the shrimping, fishing, hospitality and tourism industries. Alabama and Mississippi each will receive $5 million. Florida will receive $7 million, and Louisiana will receive $10 million.
The resources are being provided to the states to increase their capacity to help workers now while they seek reimbursement from BP for the costs associated with retraining and re-employment assistance. Services funded by the grant money may include skills assessment, basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.
Since April, the Labor Department has been involved in the Deepwater Horizon response. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is deployed across the Gulf Coast monitoring the cleanup and ensuring BP provides appropriate worker safety and health training and protections.
The department’s Employment and Training Administration has created One-Stop Career Centers where workers can receive information on unemployment insurance and job opportunities posted through the public workforce system. Additionally, the department’s Wage and Hour Division has been on the ground consulting with multiple agencies and interested parties, and providing materials to ensure cleanup workers are paid the wages they deserve.
National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.