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Agencies prepare for closure backlash

While fingers are crossed in hopes that the Intermet/Ironton Iron building will be filled by another major employer, behind the scenes, Ironton human services officials continue to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Monday, December 13, 1999

While fingers are crossed in hopes that the Intermet/Ironton Iron building will be filled by another major employer, behind the scenes, Ironton human services officials continue to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

The Ohio Bureau of Employment Services 1 Stop Center already has notified the Columbus office of a possible influx of more than 600 out-of-work employees, said Nancy Craiglemiles, temporary manager.

"It will definitely affect us if it does close, which it appears it will," Ms. Craiglemiles said. "And we’ll be here to help and assist the workers. We’ll handle their unemployment compensation benefits, and provide them with information on job search and possibly offer some job retraining."

Unemployment benefits generally last for six months, but there is a possibility of an extension in this case, Ms. Craiglemiles said.

"There is the Trade Readjustment Act – money for retraining," she said. "If it’s approved, there could be an extension on unemployment benefits."

The money and extension can only be applied for through the union, by workers or by the employer, Ms. Craiglemiles added.

The Columbus office also will send in a Rapid Response Team, whose sole purpose will be to assist out-of-work employees find a new job, Ms. Craiglemiles said.

"That’s automatic when you talk about a potential layoff of this size or a plant closure," she said.

The Rapid Response Team is not the only option available to workers who fear they will not have a job in the year 2000.

A group of union leaders and Job Training Partnership Act officials also are organizing a transition center, said Doug Philabaun, JTPA administrator.

"What I’ve done is meet with the union leadership," Philabaun said. "We have put together a tentative plan to put together a Labor Adjustment Committee to discuss strategies on how we’re going to identify resources available through various legislation such as the Job Training Partnership Act, as well as any other agencies within the community that could provide services."

The committee will have its first meeting Monday, and leadership will be controlled by union representatives, Philabaun said.

The first item on the agenda, however, will be organizing a transition center, he added.

"We have $50,000 that was provided for quick response, and that can be spent for various reasons and activities," Philabaun said. "It is usually used to put in four or six computerized work stations with Internet access and loaded with software that can take an individual through resume preparation. The Internet access will give them access to Ohio Job Net and America’s Job Bank. It also has a job matching function where they can enter their skills and find the best job for them."

The transition center also will be used for more than just for job searches, Philabaun said.

"If through this process, we identify problems with a person having specific needs, there is a referral process in place," he said. "We will also address the stress involved and we’ll be in touch with family guidance to provide counseling services. We’ll even be in touch with faith-based organizations to solicit their help in this process."

Although detailed plans cannot be made until definite layoff dates are known, the Lawrence County Department of Human Services also is preparing for the possible large layoff of workers, said Kenny Ater, assistant director.

"We will try to be geared up for meeting the influx and trying to personalize their needs," Ater said.

A packet explaining possible benefits and who qualifies will be prepared and distributed in the near future, he added.

Some of those benefits include food stamps, medical cards for children and cash assistance, said Janet Jones, human services income maintenance administrator.

"They can apply at any time if they don’t have income," Ms. Jones said. "We have 30 days to make a decision on any application."

More than offering benefits, the department also might be able to find work for displaced workers, Ater added.

"We’re already getting inquiries about companies asking about our employees, and we’ll try to match these people up as well," she said. "I don’t know about the salary and benefits, but outside this area, people are beating the doors down to get people."