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Laid-off autoworkers get help

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JAMES P. LEUTE
January 28, 2010
— “Hallelujah!”

That was Bob Borremans’ reaction Wednesday when he learned that Rock County will receive $2.3 million to help laid-off auto industry workers.


The National Emergency Grant announced Wednesday is Rock County’s second from the U.S. Department of Labor. In October 2008, the federal government awarded $3.8 million for the training and support of auto industry workers affected by layoffs when General Motors eliminated its second shift of production in Janesville.


While the second grant is tied to GM ending sport utility vehicle production in December 2008, it will help all workers displaced from GM and its local suppliers: Lear Corp. and LSI in Janesville and United Industries and Alcoa in Beloit.


“This will allow us to continue serving the population that we know is out there,” said Borremans, executive director of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.


The grant amount is exactly what the board requested.


While it’s targeted to displaced auto industry workers, it’s good news for all dislocated workers in Rock County, he said.


“Now, we can target this money to the auto sector and then use our regular allocations to help those people not displaced by the auto industry,” Borremans said. “We won’t have to split up one pool of money for everyone who needs help.”


The grant money will be used in a variety of training and support roles provided by the workforce dexvelopment board through the Rock County Job Center. As expenses are incurred, the workforce development board will be reimbursed by the state.


The two Rock County grants total more than $6.1 million and cover 2,300 workers.


That’s an average of a little more than $2,600 per worker, although each worker’s needs are addressed independently. For example, one might need support services that cost $600 while another needs training that costs considerably more.


“Wisconsinites are striving to recover from major layoffs that struck the automotive industry,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a news release. “This additional funding will ensure that affected workers continue to receive employment services that will lead to good jobs in promising regional industries.”


National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.


Dr. Edward Montgomery, executive director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers, said Wisconsin and Rock County have met those guidelines and have demonstrated the need for the funding.


“The president and the administration remain committed to supporting auto communities and helping these workers find new jobs,” Montgomery said in the release.



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