The U.S. Department of Labor forwarded $5 million Friday to the state so Delaware County could establish a permanent center focused on assisting the 1,000 dislocated refinery workers in finding new employment.
Over the past few months, ConocoPhillips and Sunoco Inc. administrators closed their Trainer and Marcus Hook refineries, respectively, impacting more than 1,200 direct employees.
County officials sought the funding to assist in providing re-employment services to these workers.
The National Emergency Grant award was granted to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, which will transfer the funds to the Delaware County Office of Workforce Development.
“Anytime major employers shut their doors, communities suffer,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said. “This federal grant aims to help lessen the negative impact of these closures by providing re-employment and retraining services so impacted workers can more effectively compete for new jobs in growing industries.”
Solis had received a letter from U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby earlier this month.
“This grant would allow for the creation of a great asset to the community impacted by the closing of these refineries, and supporting these hardworking men and women is of the utmost importance,” he wrote at the time.
“Those who lost their jobs will be able to find new employment through these training programs designed to help them enhance the skills necessary to enter a new field of work,” Meehan wrote. “Not supporting these displaced workers would only do the local economy and market a great disservice.”
On Friday, the representative said he was pleased the funding was approved.
“This funding will provide relief and important services to workers and their families hurting after the refinery closures,” Meehan said. “This grant will provide career services, training and workshops to help get our workers back on the job.”
A transition center was installed at the United Steelworkers’ union hall in Linwood and opened March 1 to start providing computer classes and job search services.
“Any help that they can get is well needed,” said Thomas J. McGarrigle, Delaware County council chairman.
He said the details, such as where the County Workforce Office will locate the permanent center, will be worked out.
County Councilwoman Colleen Morrone was also pleased by this allocation.
“This grant is excellent news for Delaware County and our workers,” she said. “We hope the end result is that every laid-off worker has a new job by the time this grant is done.”
The funding is meant to help refinery workers who live in Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania, as well as Camden and Gloucester counties in New Jersey and New Castle County in Delaware.
National Emergency Grants are part of the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s discretionary fund. They are geared toward providing intensive employment-related services, such as occupational skills training, to help them re-enter the workforce.