The Department of Labor is allocating millions of dollars to California to put workers forced into unemployment because of the ongoing drought back to work, albeit in temporary positions.
California will receive up to $18 million in National Dislocated Worker Grants to provide jobs for workers dislocated by the drought. The initial release of $3 million will employ up to 1,000 workers for up to six months. The workers will be employed 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.
The workers will make $10 an hour and overtime if needed. The employment will last for six months or until the worker has earned $14,000, whichever comes first. The employment does not include health insurance or any other benefits.
“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."
A 2014 study by University of California, Davis found that more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture have been lost because of California’s drought. The same study found the statewide economic impact of the drought totaled $2.2 billion in lost revenue.
The National Dislocated Worker Grants, made possible through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, will focus on the areas facing the most severe impacts in California. 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 and based in Sacramento — will work directly with regional partners and project work sites to assist impacted workers. For Stanislaus and Merced counties La Cooperativa will be working with the Central Valley Opportunity Center, a non-profit employment training center based in Winton.
To qualify for the employment option, workers must prove they have the right to work in the United States; show they have been underemployed or unemployed because of the drought, or have been unemployed for more than 15 of the last 26 weeks in a drought-stricken area; and show that household income has decreased because of the drought.
More details about the grant and application process are expected to be released from the California Employment Development Department in about a month’s time.