$346K in 'Emergency' Benefits Paid To Workers Laid Off at Solo Cup Plant... in 2011

August 8, 2013 - 12:58 PM

Solo cup

(Solo Cup Co.)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $346,531 of a nearly $1 million National Emergency Grant (NEG) to 180 workers who were laid off from their jobs at a Solo Cup factory in North Andover, Massachusetts that closed over two years ago.

The plant was shuttered on July 29, 2011. The $992,586 grant was awarded five months later, on December 21, 2011, but only $646,055 was initially given to the workers, with the remaining $346,531 available if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts demonstrated "a continued need for assistance" on their behalf.

That remaining funds were allocated Monday The toral grant amount divided by 180 comes out to an average of $5,514.37 in assistance per laid-off worker.

NEGs are awarded at the local and state level to expand job training programs and provide "funding assistance in response to large, unexpected economic events which cause significant job losses." They are typically used to cushion the blow when a company lays off at least 50 workers, or when single, multiple or company-wide layoffs have occurred.

."These former workers continue to face challenges in finding jobs in an area where the unemployment rate is higher than in most areas in the commonwealth," said Eric Seleznow, acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training.

He said in a press release that "the Labor Department's additional funding will help these workers in their ongoing efforts to find employment."

The NEG grants are funded through the Secretary of Labor's discretionary fund and described as a means of giving money to state and local workforce agencies to "quickly reemploy laid-off workers by offering training to increase occupational skills."

However, in the case of the now shuttered Solo Cup factory, it has been over two years since the factory in northeastern Massachusetts near the border with New Hampshire closed. According to a 2010 newspaper article in the North Landover, Mass. Eagle Tribune, the layoffs were part of a larger company-wide closure of three plants in 2011 - one each in Maryland, Massachusetts and Missouri - that affected a total of 1,240 workers.

At the time, laid-off employees were supposed to be given the chance to seek employment at other Solo Cup facilities.

Solo Cup, established in 1936, makes disposable cups, plates, and trays and was bought in 2012 by Dart Container, the world's largest manufacturer of foam cups and containers. The year prior to the sale, Solo Cup was a $1.6 billion company with plants in Europe and the Americas, according to the company's website.

The grant was awarded to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to "provide assistance to these workers in conjunction with the services they are receiving based on eligibility for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits."

According to the Department of Labor's website, TAA "is a federal entitlement program that assists U.S. workers who have lost or may lose their jobs as a result of foreign trade."

Examples of benefits available under TAA include up to 130 weeks of full-time or part-time training, tax credits to cover nearly three-quarters of a worker's monthly health insurance premium, and allowances for relocation or job searching outside the worker's local area. The TAA program came about as a result of the Work Investment Act of 1998 signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

CNSNews.com's requests for comment from the Department of Labor were not returned.