Federal grant to aid laid-off steel workers
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 09:42

$3 million to fund training programs

by Nicole Rodman

    The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $3 million National Emergency Funding grant in an effort to assist workers laid off from the steel mill in Sparrows Point.
    Announced last Monday by U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, the grant is designed to provide employment-related services to the 885 workers impacted by the closure of the mill.

“This federal assistance is good news and will provide a critical lifeline for the workers affected by the closure of the Sparrows Point Mill,” said Senator Mikulski in a statement last week.
    Mikulski is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which funds the Department of Labor.
    Reinforcing Mikulski’s sentiments, Cardin lauded the grant, saying, “This is absolutely the type of thing we need to do for the workers of RG Steel. It will provide important employment-related services to those who through no fault of their own are affected by the closure of the Sparrows Point plant.”
    Awarded from the U.S. Department of Labor to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the grant will fund training and employment programs, both at the state and local level, for workers displaced by the closure of the Sparrows Point steel mill.
    In the aftermath of RG Steel’s bankruptcy filing on May 31, both Mikulski and Cardin sent letters to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman asking for assistance on behalf of RG Steel employees at Sparrows Point.
    In the letter to Solis, Mikulski and Cardin asked the Department of Labor to “work directly with the employees’ labor union, the various companies involved, the relevant state Workforce agencies, and the Internal Revenue Service to guarantee that all impacted employees understand their rights and are provided with the federal and state assistance they have earned.”
    In addition to the $3 million Department of Labor grant, the senators are also working to secure Trade Adjustment Assistance and Health Care Tax Credit benefits for laid-off workers.
    Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits are designed to aid workers who have lost jobs as a result of outsourcing to foreign countries, while the Health Care Tax Credit ensures affordable health care coverage for unemployed workers.
     Both petitions are still pending, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
    Mikulski and Cardin said they plan to continue advocating on behalf of Sparrows Point steel mill workers.
    As Mikulski noted last week, “I will continue to fight for TAA benefits and affordable health insurance coverage for the hardworking men and women of the Sparrows Point Mill.”