V.I. receives $300K to help unemployed citizens

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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Department of Labor has received more than $304,000 in federal funding to help unemployed citizens find new careers.

Each month, the department has about 200 new claimants, all of whom are seeking work.

"This money allows us to work with everybody," said Allison DeGazon, director of unemployment insurance for the V.I. Department of Labor.

Re-employment services are programs aimed at helping workers enter into new professions, so the services also are open to people who already have a job but may be interested in trying a new profession.

While the department previously only entered claimants who did not have a high school education into the program for re-employment services, all claimants now automatically will be entered into the program.

"It's all about increasing the knowledge and increasing the strength of our workforce," DeGazon said.

More and more, the department is assisting claimants who have college and other advanced degrees because the poor economy is affecting all levels of employment, DeGazon said.

Under the grant, six people will be employed by the territorial labor department, DeGazon said.

It will be the second year that the territory has received the grant, though last year it was closer to $500,000, she said.

The program had a late start this year because of issues finding qualified staff to fill open positions, DeGazon said. The funding will cover the period from April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015, she said, though the department only found out that it received the grant Tuesday.

The Unemployment Insurance Re-Employment Assessment grant, which totals $304,849 for the territory, was spread out across 37 other states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. It is the 10th year that grant money under the program has been available, but it is only the second year that the territory has received funding.

In all, the U.S. Department of Labor granted $68,745,912 to the entities based on participation rates in each state, territory and Washington, D.C.

"The economy is such that everyone needs help," DeGazon said.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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