Grant offers extended help for workers

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 1999

The U.

Friday, December 31, 1999

The U.S. Department of Labor’s multi-million dollar dislocated worker grant will help about 100 Cabletron employees pay bills while finding jobs, but helping other area workers facing unemployment lines remains a top priority, officials said.

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"This is the kind of thing we will be looking at with the jobs at Ironton Iron," said U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, who announced the grant award Thursday with U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine and West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahal.

"If the need is there, and it looks like it will be, certainly the workers there will deserve every consideration," Strickland said.

Such federal help for Ironton Iron is only speculation now because problems with unemployment benefits would come in late summer, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"For the Cabletron situation, it’s definitely good start because employees going to school were at a crossroads deciding whether to continue on or quit and find employment," Cleary said. "The government came through with the first step with what’s needed, now we need to keep (unemployment) benefits coming to the ones whose benefits are running out."

Cabletron closed in April, leaving almost 400 people without jobs and on unemployment, which will end soon. The grant only provides financial help to former employees currently in retraining or school.

"We’ve sent letters and asked for a full extension on unemployment and at the 11th hour they’ve come through with this," Cleary said. "It shows there may be hope the rest of the funding may come through."

State officials have said Cabletron workers would qualify for an extension, except federal agencies use state unemployment figures on which to base decisions, and those figures are low compared to Lawrence County’s, Lawrence Economic Development Corporation executive director Pat Clonch said.

The LEDC wrote letters asking Ohio’s congressmen and senators to urge the Department of Labor to provide a waiver to that rule on extension of benefits, Mrs. Clonch said.

Also, the LEDC had been urging the department to make Thursday’s decision since October, and it comes as a blessing to the 100 Cabletron workers, she said.

"But we can’t give up on the others," Mrs. Clonch said. "We have to make sure they get an extension and the Department of Labor has the flexibility to do that."

The $6 million grant, aimed at easing tensions among dislocated Logan Goodyear plant workers and Cabletron employees, was submitted by the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services, which will administer the funds, Strickland said.

About $3 million is available immediately and will be spread equally among workers – 100 in the Lawrence County area and 450 in the Hocking County area, he said.

"The significant thing is that although these grants don’t normally provide maintenance, this grant will do that," Strickland said.

Maintenance money provides financial help in paying bills when a worker is laid off or unemployed by a plant closing, he said.

The aid will keep people from dropping their education or training so they can work to pay monthly bills, he added.

Also, the aid is tax-exempt, meaning more money to those who need it most, Mrs. Clonch said.

The Athens County Community Action Organization, which covers Hocking County where the Goodyear plant is, wrote the original grant request, Mrs. Clonch said.

"The state had to come up with a $700,000 match," she said.

OBES in Columbus submitted the original grants for Hocking County. The Department of Labor then added Cabletron, Strickland said.

When approval was slow in coming, the LEDC began its letter campaign, Mrs. Clonch added.

OBES One Stop Centers have information about the grant.