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US Dept. of Labor to help in Hurricane Irma recovery

The department will continue to work cooperatively with states and territories to assess needs as they develop and respond accordingly, said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.

The U.S. Department of Labor, in cooperation with state and local partners, is setting aside funding and will be making grants to assess workforce needs in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, and other states in response to Hurricane Irma, the agency announced.

The department will continue to work cooperatively with states and territories to assess needs as they develop and respond accordingly, said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who has directed the agency to assist the residents and businesses in affected areas.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Hurricane Irma,” Acosta said.  “The Department of Labor is deploying resources to support cleanup and recovery efforts. As Americans, we are strong and will come together to help our friends and neighbors.”

The federal agency’s activities to assist states and territories include:

  • The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) will provide Disaster Dislocated Worker Grants to assess workforce needs. The disbursement of funding will be determined as needs are assessed by state and local partners.
  • ETA is assisting in administering Disaster Unemployment Assistance for Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This assistance may also become available to other states impacted by Hurricane Irma if additional disaster declarations are made.
  • ETA and the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy will make funding available from Disability Employment Initiative grants to provide services, medical equipment, and other resources to individuals with disabilities who are affected by the hurricane.
  • The Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) is temporarily waiving certain requirements and deadlines related to retirement plans and group health plans, and is coordinating with other federal agencies that regulate employee benefit plans on relief for employers, other plan sponsors, and plan participants and beneficiaries affected by the hurricanes. For example, EBSA is working with the Internal Revenue Service to make it easier for workers to get loans and distributions from 401(k) and other retirement plans and to give employers more time to file the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report for their employee benefit plans.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is helping employers keep their workers safe during cleanup and recovery operations by providing a number of hurricane and flood resources.
  • Most OSHA programmed enforcement actions will cease in the affected areas to avoid disrupting recovery operations. An OSHA Emergency Response Team will provide compliance assistance.
  • OSHA is actively engaged with the National Response Team and the interagency response to the hurricane and flooding. It is working with the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies to coordinate strategies for the recovery.

Public Service Announcements emphasizing the need to work safely in English and Spanish will be broadcast in affected areas during recovery efforts, the agency concluded.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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