Labor Department aids workers displaced by BP’s oil spill

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced an award of $27 million in National Emergency Grants to four key Gulf Coast states to assist workers displaced by BP’s ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The states are Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“Working families in the Gulf Coast have been dealt a tremendous blow by this oil spill, and they are facing serious long-term challenges,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a press statement. “They need and deserve our help now.”

“From the start, we have been actively engaged in ensuring workers tackling the cleanup are kept safe and healthy,” Solis added. “These grants will help those still looking for work find jobs that are good, safe and will help the region’s economy get back on track.”

According to the Department of Labor, the funds are being granted to workforce agencies in the four states experiencing economic hardship caused by BP’s oil spill. Workers displaced by wage decline and job loss in the shrimping, fishing, hospitality and tourism industries will be eligible. Alabama and Mississippi each will receive $5 million. Florida will receive $7 million, and Louisiana will receive $10 million.

The resources are being provided to the states to help workers now while they seek reimbursement from BP for the costs associated with retraining and re-employment assistance. Services funded by the grant money may include skills assessment, basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.
Since April, the Labor Department has been involved in the Deepwater Horizon response. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is deployed across the Gulf Coast monitoring the cleanup and ensuring BP provides appropriate worker safety and health training and protections.

For example, OSHA inspectors and have visited over 1,400 sites in the region impacted by BP’s oil spill to protect clean-up workers and has worked to ensure that BP provides appropriate personal protective equipment. OSHA inspectors have also pressured BP to implement a heat stress work plan that prevents heat-related illnesses such as dehydration and heat stroke for workers doing the clean-up in the Gulf Coast’s hot summer weather.
In addition to the grants for displaced workers, the Labor Department created One-Stop Career Centers where workers can receive information on unemployment insurance and job opportunities posted through the public workforce system. 


Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of The Collectivity of Life: Spaces of Social Mobility and the Individualism Myth, and a former editor of Political Affairs.