Home News Local news LABOR GRANTS WILL FILL GAPS IN MANY AREAS

LABOR GRANTS WILL FILL GAPS IN MANY AREAS

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March 14, 2002 – Job prospects may soon be brighter for the unemployed and youth seeking summer jobs, thanks to an infusion of funds from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Six labor grants worth more than four million dollars were awarded to the territory this week under the Workforce Investment Act and the Wagner-Peyser Act. Among the grants is $1.4 million to streamline operations at the V.I. Department of Labor.
According to one administrator, those funds will help put the final touches on an automated system that will let job seekers enjoy all the benefits of the labor department without having to leave home.
"We have been designated a one-stop service delivery area on St. Thomas because all the different divisions are under one roof," said Rhona Martinez, chief of staff for Labor Comissioner Cecil Benjamin.
Work on the one-stop system has been going on for the past three years. Martinez said once the automated systems are put in place, clients will be able to file for unemployment insurance, conduct job searches and register for training programs using home computers hooked up to the Internet.
Clients using the automated system will also be able to file for workmen's compensation, occupational health and safety and assistance with wrongful discharge cases. The system also allows labor officials from different divisions to get information about the different services being used by jobless workers.
The system could be ready for use some time this summer, Martinez said.
Also contained in the grants package, $831,145 to fund youth activities. According to a statement from congressional delegate Donna Christian-Christensen the grant approval will allow local agencies "to enter into financial agreements for summer employment opportunities, which are a required component of the WIA youth program."
In 2001 a combination of local and federal grants helped the Department of Labor place more than 900 youth in seasonal jobs and Rhone says the annual search for summer job funds is already underway. Information about the latest grant announcement, "will tell us just how much money we will have to use," she said.
Some of the remaining funds represent resources received each year to assist the victims of mass layoffs, plant closings and unexpected events like the drop in tourism after the September 11 attacks on America.
Under the dislocated worker program, labor officials extend assistance and refer the jobless to support systems, like Human Services and the Education Departments. In some cases, Rhone said, her department will also contact client's creditors and try to gain leniency for laid off workers with outstanding bills.

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