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Published: Friday, 10/1/2004

Ohio getting more money for retraining

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

With the numbers of unemployed in Ohio pushing 370,000, the state learned this week it will receive another $863,000 in federal funds to help retrain workers who lose their jobs because of foreign trade.

That will put the total Trade Adjustment Assistance funds Ohio has received this year at well over $8 million, nearly double what the U.S. Department of Labor had budgeted prior to the start of the federal fiscal year which ended yesterday.

However, the state money is enough for just 2,000 laid-off workers at any one time. Other states get far more of such funds, which suggests Ohio's job losses aren't as heavily influenced by foreign trade. That's only a small part of the jobless in the state, which pays about $100,000 unemployment checks a week.

"It speaks well of Ohio as being a little more diversified by industry than other states," said Amie Reid, chief of trade in the unemployment office of the state Department of Job and Family Services.

Also, Ohio experienced in previous years the big trade-related layoffs other states are now suffering, said Joe Duda, deputy director of the state unemployment office.

Pennsylvania and North Carolina are among the leaders in such trade assistance for workers, budgeted for $23 million and $7 million, respectively, for the federal fiscal year that ended yesterday, and slated to get $23 million and $10 million in the new fiscal year.

Ohio's funds have been used for the past few years, and often the state has received added amounts. For example, Ohio was budgeted for $5.7 million for the year just ended, but ended up using $8.6 million, said Ms. Reid.

That covered assistance for 1,813 workers through July, plus an undetermined number in the past two months. On average, the training assistance is $6,500. It can be used for a week-long course to upgrade skills or as much as 104 weeks to obtain a two-year college degree.

One recipient is Ed Hawk, of Vaughnsville, Ohio, who was employed by LG Philips Displays in Ottawa, Ohio, before the company decided to move TV picture production to Mexico in 2003. Most of the plant's 1,200 workers received trade assistance funding.

Mr. Hawk used his funds to obtain a two-year degree at Rhodes State College in Lima, Ohio, so that he could get a job in human resources. He is two classes short of getting his degree. So far, he's had a few job interviews and inquiries, but no certain work.

"At the time I signed up, they said it was a high demand field," he said. "But you almost have got to have your foot in the door to get in. "

Other workers, Mr. Hawk said, have retrained as nurses or information technology personnel. Many have gotten jobs, he said.

To receive the assistance, the work had to have been lost direclty from trade, such as a company like Philips moving the work out of the country.

A request for such aid for 34 workers at Gerity-Schultz Inc., which closed this summer, was denied because the firm didn't move work overseas. Its key customer did, leaving the company without income, so it was closed. The Labor Department determined there were other programs to help those laid-off workers.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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