State to Receive $7.6 Million in Additional Funding to Retrain Laid off Coal Miners, Program has Already Retrained Nearly 1,000 Workers

CHARLESTON — West Virginia will receive an additional $7.6 million in federal grant funds to pay for job training and career services for dislocated mine workers and their families.

The funding comes from an extension to a National Dislocated Worker Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that helps coal miners — and their families — who have been affected by layoffs and mine closures to train for and find new career paths and opportunities.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin made the announcement during a press event on Tuesday in Charleston.

“We have worked hard over the years to build and strengthen our state’s diverse portfolio of workforce training programs,” Gov. Tomblin said. “Mine closures and layoffs have left many of our state’s hardworking miners unemployed and in need of help. I will continue to fight for our miners and the coal industry, but this additional funding will strengthen our efforts to provide them with retraining and re-employment opportunities should they need them.”

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) applauded the $7.6 million awarded to WorkForce West Virginia to help West Virginia workers affected by coal mining industry layoffs rejoin the workforce. The grant’s initial release of $3.2 million will assist about 900 participants enrolled in the grant project, and an additional 500 targeted participants impacted by recent layoffs.

“These are unbelievably challenging times for our miners and our coal mining industry as we have seen a devastating amount of layoffs this year,” Senator Manchin said. “We need to do everything in our power to help our miners through these uncertain times. This funding will expand job training programs that will help them develop the skillsets necessary to fill other available positions. I thank Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor for this important funding.”

“Onerous regulations and market forces have devastated many of our state’s mining communities. In these difficult times, we need to ensure that our displaced coal miners have access to job training and other services as they look for new jobs,” said Senator Capito. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I worked hard to ensure that funding to assist dislocated workers in the coal community was a priority.”

In 2012, WorkForce West Virginia received an initial $1.8 million, followed by a second installment of $5.6 million in 2014 to provide support for workers affected by layoffs and mine closures. Together, this funding retrained nearly 1,000 workers.

When the initial disbursement of grant funds was exhausted, West Virginia sought a second grant to continue these retraining efforts.

This additional grant funding will provide tuition assistance, up to $5,000 per participant, for classroom or online skills training and will support 25 on-the-job training positions. It will also offer up to $100 per week to help with the cost of meals, travel and child care. Miners’ spouses and children living at home are also eligible for the program.

In addition, WorkForce West Virginia recently launched a redesigned website that is a one-stop-shop for all of West Virginia’s workforce development programs and services. Both employers and unemployed workers can learn more about this new grant program and additional offerings at www.workforcewv.org.

By:  John Dahlia
Source: The Preston County News & Journal