Department of Labor Announces Funding to Help Workers Displaced by Oil Spill

by billmason on July 20, 2010

The Department of Labor announced in late June its release of more than $27 million dollars in emergency grants for four states most impacted by the devastating BP oil spill. The spill, that continues to spill since an explosion in late April, 2009 that killed eleven, continues to wreak havoc along the entire Gulf Coast. Hotels, casinos and restaurants are reporting a 75% decline in their summer business. Some businesses have even been forced to close their doors. The four states aligned to receive these funds are Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis says, “Working families on the Gulf Coast have been dealt a tremendous blow by this oil spill…and are facing serious long term challenges”. A. Harrison Barnes, founder says the industries that can expect a share of these funds include shrimping, fishing, hospitality and tourism, among others. Currently, Alabama and Mississippi are set to receive $5 million each while Florida and Louisiana have been granted $10 million each. It’s expected these percentages will fluctuate with time and as funds are doled out.

A. Harrison Barnes says these funds will be used in many dynamics, but one of the most important aspects comes from training those residents who stand ready to play a role in the clean up efforts. Part of that training, say experts, has to do with ensuring safety precautions are in place for those who do come in contact with the oil and tar balls. Everything from the owners of the vessels of opportunity that skim the waters to employees that walk the beaches and collect the beached oil must all go through training programs.

Kenneth Feinberg, the government’s point man, has reiterated his dedication to fair recompense for those who are most affected and in a press conference in June, said, “I am working for the people of the Gulf Coast…no one else”.

The founder also says it’s important that those who wish to pursue new careers are provided the opportunities to do so while also ensuring they are paid fair salaries. “One positive step is the fact the breakdown and releases on fund disbursements, job training and other important information is being made public on the Department of Labor’s website. This lends to a certain transparency that is sometimes missing from government properties”, says Barnes. This announcement should clear the way for many coastal residents to move forward as the nation continues to watch the oil continue to gush into waters a mile underwater.

Other announcements included reimbursement for medical issues due to the oil. Some coastal residents have reported breathing problems and other respiratory difficulties; however, many of these same people who are no longer employed face mounting medical costs. BP has announced its intent to reimburse those with these problems.

The release of these funds by the Department of Labor are expected in the coming weeks.

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