Members of the Harlan County Community Action Agency (HCCAA) and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) are teaming up to help laid off coal miners in eastern Kentucky.
Beginning with applications for grants with the U.S. Department of Labor, help is expected by the year’s end.
“We have been asked to give the community a heads up on a National Emergency Grant, which is being worked on right now and will be used to train laid off coal miners,” said HCCAA Director Donna Pace at a recent meeting of the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce.
“We don’t have a lot of specifics on the grant right now, but feel confident this grant will come through before the end of the year,” she said. “Some of the specifics we do know is it will affect coal companies who have laid off 50 or more miners. Some of the companies named to me were Enterprise Coal, Stillhouse Mines, Synergy, Straight Creek, Sapphire Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, Long Fork, Arch and Kentucky Fuels Coal. This will pertain both to underground and surface coal miners.”
Pace said there may be modifications later for secondary layoffs if furloughs continue and hurt the economy.
“Some of the things we will be doing will be on-the-job-training, training costs, some longer term trainings, if needed, and maybe relocation assistance,” said Pace. “We’ll be concentrating on getting these people back to work and keeping miners in the county.”
Workforce Investment Act Director Celia Joyce told members of the chamber that approximately 685 miners will be eligible under this emergency grant. She said this will cover a 23-county area, including Harlan County.
“All the money we have right now is going toward dislocated workers,” said Joyce. “Specifically, at this time, it will be used for coal miners. This grant will not encompass secretaries and other office staff at coal mines — just coal miners themselves.”
Joyce said everyone is seeing a lot of “industry-wide, mass, layoffs” right now, which affecting entire communities.
“We’re excited about this grant,” said Joyce. “In order to apply for our benefits and to qualify as a dislocated worker for any of our programs is pretty basic. You have to have been laid off, not fired or let go, you have to be receiving unemployment benefits or at least eligible to receive them. That will make you a dislocated worker as long as you don’t have a recall date to go back to work.”
Pace said the 23 counties included in the emergency grant aren’t “all coal mining counties.”
“That’s why they’re thinking there will be room for secondary layoffs — for the smaller companies who haven’t had 50 or more layoffs,” said Pace. “What we don’t want to happen is for our Harlan County coal miners to have to leave Harlan County. The bottom line is these people have to work. So, whether we bring in industry or promote outside industry in neighboring counties, we want our folks to stay with us if at all possible.”
Joyce said they do have funds in another grant for military service members coming off active duty. She said anyone with questions may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 589-3243 for more information.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com