The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) and the Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) will host a benefits fair at the Harlan County Extension Depot from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Arch Coal will also be at the fair taking applications.
“We saw a need with all the lay-offs happening in eastern Kentucky, especially in the coal industry, plus lay-offs within the few manufacturing industries we have. American Woodmark in Hazard shut down. Tru-Seal in Barbourville shut down,” said EKCEP Monitoring Unit Manager Bridget Back. “The unemployment rate is going up. The state’s unemployment rate is at 8.2 percent for June and our 23 counties in eastern Kentucky is at 11.9 percent. Most people have worked for so long they don’t know what benefits are out there for them now that they are out of work. Instead of them having to go from one office to another, we’re having these fairs so that we can have all these agencies under one roof enabling people to find out what help they can get all at one time.”
Back said some of the agencies participating in the benefits fair will be: Mountain Comprehensive Health Care, providing information on 340B prescription plans, which help people who have no insurance be able to afford their prescriptions. Also, they will provide information on their sliding scale costs for those who have no insurance for health care. EKCEP will provide information on their Workforce Investment Act Program, which helps people learn how to find jobs, interview and do resumes. Also, they will provide information on job clubs available to the area and if participants qualify for re-training programs. The Harlan County Community Action Agency will provide information on services they provide such as LIHEAP, which helps people pay their electrical bills, weatherization and housing programs. Arch Coal will be on hand looking to hire approximately 100 underground miners for their West Virginia operations. They will be taking applications during this time.
“The Kentucky Housing Corporation will participate in the fair providing information on Bridge Grants, which helps people make their house payments,” said Back. “If people lose 15 percent of their income they may be eligible for this program that pays up to a certain dollar amount or up to 16 months of housing payments. This can help people from losing their homes due to lay-offs. It’s free money if they keep their home for 3-5 years. You don’t have to pay that loan back. As with any government funding, you want to get out and get this while it is available to make sure you get it before it’s gone.”
Others participating in the fair are adult education who provide help to those who need their GEDs. Kentucky Community and Technical College system, University of Pikeville and Eastern Kentucky University representatives will be on hand to provide information on financial aid available to those who wish to take satellite courses to further their education or re-train for other jobs.
“There will be organizations there to help with small business loans,” said Back. “A law agency will be at the fair to provide information about disability and social security. A veterans representative will be there to talk to veterans about benefits available to them. A bank in conjunction with a tax agency will be there to talk about tax liability on 401Ks and IRAs, taxable income on your unemployment insurance and that sort of things.
“Black lung representatives will be there to talk to miners about benefits available to them. The unemployment office will be there as well, providing information about jobs available and what to expect while you are receiving unemployment benefits and how to apply. There will also be free blood pressure and sugar screenings available from MCHC.
“You don’t have to be laid off to come to this fair. Even if you are laid off this does not in any way affect any sort of pay or severance pay you are getting. Just coming and to get information from these agencies doesn’t affect anything. We encourage everyone to attend this fair because there will be valuable information available for you.”
A bag will be given to each one attending the fair with information and contact numbers on all services and help available. Another fair will be at the Mountain Arts Center, in Prestonsburg, on Aug. 28.
For more information, you may call 573-1506 or visit their website at www.ekcep.org.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.