Federal grant could help laid-off workers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Laid-off Freightliner workers in Cleveland and Jevic Transportation employees in Concord could benefit from a federal workforce investment grant helping them to train for and find new jobs.
The offices of U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr and Rep. Robin Hayes, all N.C. Republicans, announced today the Department of Labor has awarded the N.C. Department of Commerce with $2.43 million in grant funding to aid 1,620 workers affected by mass layoffs at Freightliner and Jevic Transportation.
“This much-needed funding will give workers the tools and resources they need to transition to new jobs in the wake of these widespread layoffs,” Dole said in a press statement. “I applaud Secretary Chao for working with us to give these North Carolina workers access to career counseling, job training and family support services.”
The Worker Adjustment Assistance and Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance program was set up to help in cases of mass layoffs.
Freightliner laid off 1,180 workers April 1, 2007, effectively eliminating its third shift. The latest layoff of second-shift workers, scheduled to start last Friday, was last reported to affect employees with at least 10 years of experience at the plant and cost more than 1,500 jobs.
One Freightliner employee told the Post previously that third-shift workers who lost their jobs missed the assistance deadline by less than three weeks.
Workers eligible for assistance are those laid off on or after April 22, 2007.
A Department of Labor spokesman noted the federal assistance will be available for anyone laid off within two years after the certification date, which was May 12. That’s the date when Linda G. Poole, certifying officer in the Department of Labor’s division of trade adjustment assistance, signed the agreement.
Rick Klinedinst, human resources manager for the Cleveland facility, earlier recognized the efforts of three employees ó Brandon Sechler, Todd Smith and Adam Simmons ó in a letter sent out to employees noting the additional assistance approval.
The letter noted the reasons for the Department of Labor offering the assistance were:
– Sales and employment decreased from January through March of this year.
– Information showed an increased reliance on imports of heavy-duty trucks during that period.
– Many workers at Freightliner are 50 or older.
Assistance will depend on the individual applying and may include employment counseling, help with writing a resume, relocation allowances, classroom training, income support, health coverage and other options.
According to the Department of Labor, affected workers will have access to a full array of dislocated worker services, including a nationwide network of career centers to prepare for new jobs, career counseling services and supportive services such as child care and transportation.
The funding comes from the Department of Labor’s National Emergency Grants Program, which is designed to supplement the resources and service capacity at the state and local levels by providing emergency funding in response to large dislocations and disasters.
“I am glad that the Department of Labor has extended this grant to provide much-needed help for those who are facing tough times,” Burr said. “North Carolina’s workers and communities are resilient and talented, and this support will help in the economic recovery of the area. As our local communities roll up their sleeves, I believe the Congress must play its own part in promoting pro-growth policies to strengthen our economy.”
Hayes said he had always pledged that his office would do all it could to assist displaced workers from the 8th District and the state of North Carolina.
“This grant will make it more possible for these workers to receive expanded assistance and job training to help them make a successful change in their career,” he said.