GOVERNOR JOHN DE JONGH PRAISES FOR FEDERAL GRANT TO ASSIST
(May 15, 2012)
On Tuesday, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. thanked all the Virgin Islands and federal officials who worked toward securing a grant that will fund services assisting HOVENSA's displaced workforce.
The territory was awarded more than $7.8 million through a National Emergency Grant, of which almost half will be immediately available to begin funding retraining and education programs for the 1,200 workers directly affected by the refinery's sudden closure, including those employed by 17 HOVENSA subcontractors.
“This grant, applied for by the V.I. Department of Labor, should provide a little more comfort to those HOVENSA workers trying to figure out what to do next. We can tell them we have the financial resources to assist their professional transition, helping them advance their educations, receive new occupational training and transition to new fields of work,” de Jongh said.
“The silver lining of the closure is the talents of these displaced workers will be available to the Virgin Islands as we seek to develop our territory's energy sector and health care fields. We also have some major construction and development projects in the works, and I am confident many former HOVENSA workers will lend their skills to those,” de Jongh said.
The grant was an outgrowth of coordination among many parties interested in the territory's welfare who first came together at a meeting Assistant Interior Secretary Anthony Babauta set up in Washington, DC after the refinery closure was announced.
De Jongh thanked Assistant Secretary Babauta, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, and officials of the Virgin Islands Labor Department and the Workforce Investment Board for securing the vital emergency funds.
The injection of money will help some HOVENSA workers continue practicing their trades by retraining and finding related jobs outside the territory. Others might opt for entrepreneurship programs that will help them convert their skills into businesses, and still others will go back to school, attending the University of the Virgin Islands or other local educational programs funded by the emergency grant.
He noted the immediate release of $3.6 million demonstrates the U.S. Labor Department's understanding that the territory needs a strong initial push to assist the laid-off workers find new employment.