The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Iowa over $6.2 million in a grant to help around 800 workers who lost their jobs with the closing of the John Morrell meatpacking plant in Sioux City. Jane Oates is the assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department.
Oates says the workers that are interested can come and take part in assisted job search, where they sit down and get one-to-one attention to match the skills they had a John Morrell with a new job.
Oates says the workers can also go back to school and get training for a different career. She says Iowa Workforce Development has told federal officials there are possible future jobs in wind energy or food processing with other employers.
Oates says some workers will need more help than others and there is no way to determine how much of the money might be spent on each of the workers. “We don’t set those limits here, we allow the local workforce professionals to look at the aspirations and the skills of each of the displaced workers, each of the people who have lost their job,” Oates says, “I mean clearly, some people may need a little bit of help to move on to the next job, and others may need a heavier dose response. So we try to make these national emergency grants as flexible as possible, so that professionals on the ground can make those kinds of decisions, along with the client, the out of work worker.”
Oates says about half of the money will come to Iowa to get the process started. Oates says they will send the first $3.7 million, but won’t give the state the rest until the state proves there’s a need for the money.
The John Morrell plant closed on April 9th. Oates says the closing initially impacted around 1,200 workers, but some opted to retire and others have already found other jobs.