U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced that the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $3 million in National Emergency Grant (NEG) funding to provide employment related services to approximately 885 workers affected by closure of the Sparrows Point Mill in Baltimore.
"I applaud this Department of Labor grant to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation," Senator Cardin said. "This is absolutely the type of thing we need to do for the workers of RG Steel. It will provide important employment-related services to those who through no fault of their own are affected by the closure of the Sparrows Point plant."
"This federal assistance is good news and will provide a critical lifeline for the workers affected by the closure of the Sparrows Point Mill," said Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee which funds the Department of Labor. "They have earned these crucial benefits, and I'll keep working to ensure they can provide for them and their families. For more than 100 years, the workers at Sparrows Point have produced the steel that built America. Throughout it all, from the boom years to the hardships of the last few decades, the workers have never flinched."
National Emergency Grants (NEGs) temporarily expand the service capacity of Workforce Investment Act Dislocated Worker training and employment programs at the state and local levels by providing funding assistance in response to large, unexpected economic events which cause significant job losses. NEGs generally provide resources to states and local workforce investment boards to quickly reemploy laid-off workers by offering training to increase occupational skills.
Following RG Steel's bankruptcy filing on May 31, Senators Cardin and Mikulski sent letters to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman urging them to ensure that eligible RG Steel employees and retirees receive benefits to help them seek new employment and access affordable health coverage. A copy of the letter to Secretary Solis is available here. The letter to Commissioner Shulman is available here.
The Senators have been working to make sure that eligible employees and retirees receive vital support, including Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and the Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC) benefits. These programs are lifelines to employees who are laid off and are training for new employment, as well as for retirees who may be eligible for HCTC.
According to the Department of Labor, the TAA petitions for all locations are still pending. The TAA program ensures that workers who lose their jobs as a result of outsourcing to foreign countries are provided with training and financial assistance to transition to new employment. The HCTC, which is part of the TAA program, makes health insurance coverage more affordable for workers who lose their jobs due to trade and for retirees who receive pension payments through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.