TOC workers may qualify for benefits

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes wasn’t able to save their jobs.

But the federal lawmaker was able to make it possible for the 158 disabled workers at the Tidewater Occupational Center, the sheltered workshop that closed June 11 after 32 years, to receive unemployment benefits.

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In recent years, the sheltered workshop on Pruden Boulevard has produced millions of plastic-wrapped cutlery kits annually for corporate clients nationwide. The closing comes after the center lost about $500,000 over the past two years, largely because of rising costs and the loss of business to overseas competition.

On Tuesday, Forbes announced that the TOC was certified by the U.S. Department of Labor as eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance for its employees. That program provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose work hours and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports.

&uot;Losing one’s job is immensely challenging even in the best of circumstances and the transition from one profession to another can be daunting for even the most prepared individual,&uot; Forbes said. &uot;The Tidewater Occupational Center, however, employed 158 persons who are mentally and physically challenged. They were uniquely deserving of this important assistance.&uot;

TAA offers a variety of benefits and reemployment services to assist unemployed workers in preparing for and obtaining suitable employment, said Christy Boardman, Forbes’ communications director. Workers may be eligible for training, job search and relocation allowances, income support and other reemployment services.

Individuals laid off from TOC may be eligible for the following benefits:

1) Training for employment in another job or career. Workers may receive up to 104 weeks of approved training in occupational skills, basic or remedial education, or training in literacy or English as a second language.

2) Income Support known as trade readjustment allowances (TRA). These are weekly cash payment available for 52 weeks after a worker’s unemployment compensation (UC) benefit is exhausted and during the period in which a worker is participating in an approved full-time training program. Income Support is a combination of UC and TRA benefits for a maximum of 78 weeks (26 weeks for UC and 52 weeks for TRA).

3) Job Search Allowance may be payable to cover expenses incurred in seeking employment outside of an individual’s normal commuting area.

4) Relocation Allowances provide reimbursement for approved expenses if you are successful in obtaining employment outside your normal commuting area for you to relocate to your new area of employment.

To receive these benefits, individuals should go to the nearest Virginia Employment Commission office and file an application for a determination of individual eligibility for TAA.