$1.3M grant to benefit Hanford workers who were laid off

Tri-City Herald - Annette Cary

The Department of Labor has awarded a $1.3 million National Emergency Grant to help laid-off Hanford workers find jobs.

The largest portion of the money will be used for retraining former Hanford workers who lost their jobs as federal economic stimulus spending at the nuclear reservation came to an end.

"This grant will serve as a safety net for workers and their families during these challenging economic times," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement. Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., sent a letter to Hilda Solis, the secretary of labor, in February, requesting consideration of a state application for the grant.   

The money will help an estimated 400 former Hanford workers seeking jobs, giving them intensive employment-related assistance, including training, to help them re-enter the work force in areas of the economy that are growing, according to the Department of Labor.

The retraining that will be offered will be highly individualized, said Cos Edwards, executive director of the Workforce Development Council. The council will administer the grant, with services provided through WorkSource Columbia Basin.

Workforce Development Council originally received $175,000 from a rapid response program through Washington to help laid-off Hanford workers before the National Emergency Grant was awarded, Edwards said.

About 2,000 workers were laid off last year at Hanford, including about 1,500 near the end of the federal fiscal year in September 2011.

Many of those worked for Hanford contractors or their subcontractors that had received some of $1.96 billion in federal economic stimulus funds or supported work done with that money.

The Workforce Development Council estimated that about 400 of those former workers are looking for jobs, with others moving from the area, retiring or finding jobs already. The layoffs included new hires and also longtime Hanford workers.

The grant is intended to provide money for workers laid off from DOE Hanford prime contractors CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. and Mission Support Alliance and more than 10 subcontractors, including Babcock Services, Fluor Federal Services, Materials and Energy Corp., Areva Federal Services, Gem Technology International, Enrep, Ascendent Engineering and Safety Solutions, Cavanagh Services Group and Project Services Group.

"Workers formerly employed at the Hanford site are facing the challenge of finding jobs comparable to the ones they lost," Solis said in a statement. "This federal grant aims to help lessen the negative impact of these layoffs."

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines. They typically are awarded when large numbers of employees lose their jobs at once.

The Washington State Employment Security Department estimated that the Hanford layoffs in fall 2011 equaled a loss of 6.5 percent of total area wages, Murray and Cantwell wrote in their letter of support for the grant.

"Many of the jobs lost from Hanford are highly specialized and not easily replaced in Washington state, which could result in longer unemployment for these workers," they wrote.

More information on assistance for former Hanford workers is available by calling WorkSource at 734-5922.