HAZARD — The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), based in Hazard, was awarded a $5.2 million grant on Monday that will be used to assist the region’s out-of-work coal miners return to the workforce.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced the grant in a press release Monday afternoon, noting that the funds will not only go to help the more than 2,000 coal miners affected by several rounds of layoffs in 2012, but also their spouses who may be looking to enter the workforce due to lost wages.
“When families lose their entire source of income, they often need more than one job to make ends meet,” said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. “This grant from the Labor Department will help prepare both displaced miners and their spouses for new employment in eastern Kentucky’s growing industries.”
With these funds, EKCEP will be able to provide training that could help miners transition into career fields other than mining, including construction or health care. The organization has been working to that end for several months now with its Hiring Our Miners Everyday (HOME) initiative, and officials say this program will get a big boost now that these federal grant funds have been awarded.
Through the HOME initiative, EKCEP and its partner Community Action Agencies have signed up 500 laid-off miners and their spouses, who are now receiving services including job placement assistance and career advising. Officials say they are now looking for that number to increase.
“Thanks to this grant, we look forward to connecting with even more laid-off miners, as well as our region’s employers to find hiring and on-the-job training opportunities for our enrolled miners,” said EKCEP Executive Director Jeff Whitehead.
Initially, approximately $3.7 million will be released to EKCEP, though additional funding will be made available as needed, according to the Dept. of Labor.