The State of West Virginia has received a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to provide retraining and reemployment services to dislocated coal miners and eligible family members impacted by layoffs and coal mine closures.
WorkForce West Virginia is administrating the grant. Individuals may be eligible for up to $5,000 in funds for classroom occupational skills training. The financial assistance is aimed at providing new skills for long-term reemployment opportunities.
The funds, which are also available to spouses and other family members living in the home, provide up to $5,000 per participant for occupational skills training in high-demand fields such as health-related occupations, commercial truck driving, welding, electrical engineering, HVAC repair, diesel technology and chemical processing. Participants who meet training program attendance requirements will also be eligible for training allowances to cover costs of gas, food, child care, etc. at the rate of $20 per day for the days attending class up to $100 per week.
Larry Caudill, of Danville, is one of the 158 individuals who have already received training through the grant. He was laid off from his coal mining job in November 2012 because of a downturn in the market.
“I have two kids, so to be laid off right before Christmas wasn’t the best timing in the world,” he said.
When he visited a WorkForce West Virginia office to file for unemployment, he learned about the grant to re-train miners who had lost their jobs. He signed up for a five-week commercial driving program at Boone Truck Driving Academy that would train him for a job in the trucking industry. He received money each week from the grant, in addition to collecting his unemployment benefits. He had a job lined up two weeks before the program was finished. He now works for Jordan Carriers, earning at least $1,000 a week.
“The money is nice, and I really needed a job with good benefits,” he said. “I have peace of mind that my family is taken care of. I can pay the bills and spoil my kids and buy Christmas presents.”
Caudill is thankful the grant money was available when he needed it.
“I couldn’t have paid for the training myself,” he said. “If the grant money hadn’t been there to open the door to different career, I don’t know what I would have done. I would probably be working two or three jobs trying to make ends meet.”
Jennifer Bigley of Big Creek has also received assistance from the program. In April 2012, her husband was laid off from a Boone County coal mine, and they had to find another source of income.
“We were in a hard position with two kids,” she said. “I’d started college right out of high school but never finished because I decided to stay at home with them.”
After learning about the grant from the United Mine Workers of America’s career center, she decided to go back to school to pursue a career as a health care technician. She’s currently taking classes at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. Her tuition is being 100 percent paid by the grant, and she’s receiving additional money for her transportation costs. Bigley is excited about returning to the workforce and sees this program as a blessing to her family.
She said, “It’s wonderful. It’s opening a new door, which I know will help benefit our family greatly.”
Originally, the U.S. Department of Labor had authorized this National Emergency Grant only for those affected by mass layoffs where a WARN Notice was issued. The eligibility requirements have recently been amended to include companies with smaller layoffs where a WARN Notice was not issued. The funds are available for those dislocated from a West Virginia coal company after March 1, 2012.
Miners and their families who are interested in learning more are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming informational sessions, visit their local WorkForce West Virginia office or call 1-800-252-JOBS. Information is also available online at www.workforcewv.org , or at the United Mine Workers of America Career Center, located at 2306 South Fayette Street in Beckley. The UMWA’s Career Center can be reached at 304-253-3772 or 1-877-798-8692.
Those who need assistance but do not meet the eligibility requirements for this particular program are still encouraged to contact WorkForce West Virginia as other funds may be available.