WASHINGTON — Now well into its fourth year, one of the worst droughts in California in more than a century continues to cause economic insecurity for many families in the region, particularly in the agriculture sector. A recent University of California Davis study estimates 18,000 people lost jobs because of drought. These losses leave working families struggling to make ends meet, and today the Department of Labor is announcing up to $18 million in National Dislocated Worker Grant (formerly referred to as National Emergency Grants) funding to the state of California to provide jobs for workers dislocated by the drought, with $3 million released initially.
"For so many in California's growing regions, water has been their livelihood for generations," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "Without it, growth — both the natural growth of living things and of the local economy — slows to a standstill. For those whose ability to provide for their families is most immediately affected by the drought, this funding will provide much needed temporary employment. I am particularly grateful to Congressman Jim Costa — who is announcing the grant today in Fresno — for bringing the suffering of these families to my attention and setting in motion this much-needed federal assistance."
This NDWG will employ up to 1,000 workers for up to six months with public and nonprofit agencies working to remove dead foliage to prevent potential fires and mudslides, and renovating and repairing public facilities damaged by the sustained drought. Made possible by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the grant will focus on the areas facing the most severe impacts in California. Other states that have received a drought emergency declaration and can document drought-impacted job losses will have the option to apply for similar dislocated worker grants. The program will also support youth in drought-impacted households as well as the long-term unemployed.
California's Employment Development Department will deploy the project funds through the Northern Rural Training and Employment Consortium and through La Cooperativa Campesina de California. NoRTEC — a local Workforce Development Board in the far northern part of the State — and La Cooperativa — a statewide convener of farm worker programs throughout California — will work directly with regional partners and project work sites to assist impacted workers.
As President Obama said on a visit to Fresno, Calif., last year, "California is our biggest economy, California is our biggest agricultural producer, so what happens here matters to every working American, right down to the cost of food that you put on your table." That's why the administration has announced new actions and investments of more than $110 million — of which this NDWG is part — to support workers, farmers and rural communities suffering from drought and to combat wildfires. This builds on the more than $190 million that agencies across the federal government have invested to support drought-stricken communities so far this year.
National Dislocated Worker Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund. The department awards the grant based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines.
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Editor’s Note: This version includes additional information.