Workforce West Virginia is
spearheading the distribution of the National Emergency Grant the U.S.
Department of Labor awarded the state after Hurricane Sandy. The agency met
with community action groups and private business owners yesterday to explain
the bidding process for the money.
assistant director of the employment service division for Workforce, explained
the Department of Labor restricts not only the type of work that can be done,
but also who can be employed to do it.
“It is really what we call
an administrative direct service grant to hire temporary workers with a few
stringent requirements from the Department of Labor. The Department of Labor
has lots and lots of requirements,” Craig-Hinchman said.
Craig-Hinchman said a
majority of the grant money will be used to pay the salaries of 35 temporary
workers hired to do the additional clean-up. Those projects can only take place
on public land, like roads, state parks or surrounding streams, in counties
named disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money
cannot be used to clean up private property, like homes or businesses damaged
as a result of the storm.
“Some of the state parks, I think like Audra State Park in the central
part of the state was completely shut down and it’s not even, they may have
cleaned up some roads by now, but parks that aren’t even habitable or can’t
even be used are possible projected worksites to be cleaned up,” Craig-Hinchman
Of the 18 FEMA declared
disaster counties in West Virginia, only six asked for additional help and will be named worksites under
the U.S. Department of Labor’s grant. That means, bidders can submit projects
in Barbour, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur and Webster counties.
Those project bids must be placed by February 4, will be awarded
by the governor March 4, and work is slated to begin April 1,
leaving a tight deadline for bidders to consult with the counties and
prioritize the work sites they think need the most aid.
“If you go into some of these communities, you can see where people have
taken chainsaws and just done by the sides of the roads. Well, that’s not
really safe, what happens if there’s another storm and that debris comes into the
roads? So, it’s to do further clean-up to make it safe for those communities,”
Under the grant, the projects must be completed by December 31st.
Craig-Hinchman said only
three categories of workers can be hired under this grant for temporary
employment. Those include workers who were dislocated specifically by Hurricane
Sandy, those who were dislocated by a previous storm, or have been unemployed
long-term, meaning for at least 13 weeks. They can reside in any part of the
state, not just the six counties where the projects are funded.
But there’s a limit to how
much these temporary employees can actually work. Craig-Hinchman said all
participants, regardless of their assignment, are limited to working 1,040
hours, for a total of six months, or earning a maximum of twelve-thousand
dollars. Once just one of those requirements is reached, the employee becomes
ineligible to continue working under the grant.
Craig-Hinchman said while
the grant program does help communities, it also may provide future opportunities
“It does two things. It cleans up communities and it also hires people
from those communities to at least work six months because look at the
categories, there are dislocated workers, they’ve been laid off from some company,
or they been long-term unemployed, that means they haven’t had a job in a long
time. So, it’s to put people back to work,” Craig-Hinchman said.
“That’s why it’s a Department of Labor grant program. That’s why it’s
focused on employment. Even though it’s temporary, it’s six months of work that
a worker is able to put on their resume that may be able to help them get a
long-range type of job, rather than just a short-term, six month job.”
She said this is the fifth time West Virginia has received
the National Emergency Grant. The state was awarded the grant most recently in
the spring of 2012 for clean-up after severe storms and it has been used
previously after flooding in southern West Virginia.