Federal Grant Funds Employment for Sandy Clean-up
The U.S. Department of Labor has made $15.6 million available to New Jersey counties through a National Emergency Grant (NEG) to be used to hire long-term unemployed, as well as those unemployed as a result of Hurricane Sandy, to assist with Sandy clean-up and recovery efforts. The Greater Raritan Workforce Investment Board (GRWIB), which serves Somerset and Hunterdon counties, has been allocated $488,310 toward this effort.
In all, 22 individuals have been hired to date through the NEG for Sandy-related clean-up projects in five Somerset County municipalities. Hillsborough was the first to have workers on site at the beginning of December. Since then, additional workers were sent to the other municipalities and the Sandy recovery is well underway.
The Board of Freeholders agreed to have the county hire the workers, rather than each municipality handling the task. GRWIB’s One Stop Training Division worked with the state unemployment office to develop the process for recruiting, screening and hiring the candidates. A One Stop representative is the point of contact for the program with the municipalities and makes regular site visits to help supervise the new employees.
“This is an excellent program and we thank the state Department of Labor for serving as the pass-through agency for these federal dollars,” said Freeholder Director Peter S. Palmer. “This grant program benefits not only towns that were hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy, but also people still looking for work in this extended economic recession.”
Participating Somerset County municipalities include Bridgewater, Franklin, Hillsborough, Raritan and Somerville. Three workers were placed in Bridgewater, two doing outside work and one person working with the administration to process FEMA paperwork. Five outside workers were placed in Franklin, 11 were placed in Hillsborough and three each in Raritan and Somerville. All of those positions are working outside in Hurricane Sandy clean-up activities.
New Jersey Labor Commissioner Harold Wirths toured the Hillsborough work sites last week, accompanied by township and county officials. Statewide, 500 residents now are employed in post-storm work for municipalities in 15 counties. In Somerset County, the workers earn $15 an hour with no health benefits; the county pays for workers’ compensation insurance.
The county still has openings for positions funded through the NEG. Long-term unemployed individuals who are interested should report to Employment Services at 75 Veterans Memorial Drive East, Somerville, NJ 08876. The phone number there is 908-704-3000.