States ask fed to help retrain workers

November 26, 2008 4:59:39 PM PST
The three governors and six U.S. senators from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have asked the federal labor secretary for $48.2 million to retrain people who've lost jobs because of the crisis on Wall Street. State officials estimate the tri-state region will lose about 160,000 financial sector jobs by the end of 2008 and 82,000 more by the end of 2009.

Over the past five months, the overall unemployment rate for the region has increased from 4.5 percent to 5.8 percent, or 146,000 fewer jobs.

In addition to people employed in financial services, workers at businesses that serve the industry, such as restaurants, are also facing job cuts.

"We need a united front, and it's essential that we continue to talk with one, united voice," Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, said at a Wednesday news conference, flanked by U.S. Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman.

The coalition is seeking a National Emergency Grant.

While states do receive some federal funds to serve dislocated workers under the Workforce Investment Act, the officials said those funds are "inadequate to serve the extraordinary number of workers affected by the near shutdown of the financial market," according to their letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Nancy Steffens, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Labor, said Connecticut's expected $7 million share of the grant would be used to retrain workers or help them upgrade their skills. Some money would pay for career counselors.

She said the labor agency estimates that each person would need, on average, about $5,000 in services.

Workers such as secretaries, administrative staffers and computer professionals may be eligible, as well as people working in varied businesses touched by the waves of layoffs sweeping through banks and financial institutions.

"I think we've got a small case to make, unfortunately," said Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, referring to the region's need for the job training assistance. "It's a sad commentary in many ways that we have to make this plea to the Department of Labor."

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