Grant provides relief to workers, employers affected by eruption

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Kayla Rosenfeld, state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Workforce Development Council, speaks Thursday about the dislocated worker grant program during a briefing at Pahoa Community Center.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald John Kaiwi of HiEmployment speaks Thursday about the dislocated worker grant program during a briefing at Pahoa Community Center.

Workers and employers negatively affected by the Kilauea eruption in lower Puna are eligible for employment relief through a federal grant program.

A collaboration between federal, state and county agencies, a $3 million Dislocated Worker Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will be provided in order to return employees to work quickly.

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Kayla Rosenfeld, rapid response coordinator for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Workforce Development Council, said the grant will be used to find temporary jobs for up 175 eligible workers. These workers will be given full health benefits and a wage for 2,080 hours of work — approximately one year of full-time work.

During a public briefing Thursday in Pahoa, Rosenfeld outlined the eligibility requirements for workers and employers to take advantage of the grant.

Workers and businesses must be able to prove to American Job Center Hawaii that they were negatively affected by the eruption. Rosenfeld said that as long as the impacts are documented, even minor losses of business might be eligible.

Eligible businesses will be able to hire workers full-time at no cost, with wages and benefits provided through HiEmployment, the employment agency selected by Hawaii County and the Workforce Development Council to match employees with employers.

“You’re all running this operation on the dime of Uncle Sam,” said John Kaiwi, staffing manager at HiEmployment during Thursday’s briefing.

While Rosenfeld said workers will be matched with employers based on compatibility to the best of HiEmployment’s abilities, the only jobs eligible for the program are restricted to the fields of demolition work, repair work, renovation or reconstruction work and office work, although she added that farm work also would be eligible. However, self-employed workers might be able to receive benefits regardless of their sector.

If workers placed with an eligible business “don’t fit,” Rosenfeld said American Job Center Hawaii and HiEmployment will work to replace the worker quickly, while the worker will be relocated to another eligible business.

Elizabeth Murph, Hawaii Island community director for Catholic Charities Hawaii, said she was hoping to hire two full-time disaster management assistants to help process the charity’s hundreds of disaster case files.

“We just need all hands on deck,” Murph said. “We just need bodies.”

While Murph said the jobs would be temporary, she said there is no danger of work running out before all 2,080 hours are used.

“There’s always going to be work here,” Murph said.

Employees and employers seeking assistance can register at the American Job Center Hawaii in Hilo.

Workers are required to present proof of their underemployment or unemployment — Disaster Unemployment Assistance documentation is preferred, but pay stubs are valid as well — a valid picture ID and an original Social Security card or birth certificate. Men between 18 and 25 years old also must provide proof of Selective Service registration.

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Business owners or self-employed individuals must present their general excise tax license, recent state and federal tax returns, Hawaii Compliance Express certification and proof of layoffs or reduced hours.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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