IP workers eligible for benefits

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 14, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Workers laid off from International Paper’s Natchez mill will be able to receive federal benefits that could include payment for such things as retraining, searching for a new job and relocating.

IP announced Jan. 23 that it would close its 52-year-old Natchez mill by the middle of the year, leaving 640 people out of work, due to a poor market for the chemical cellulose it produces.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor certified the mill’s laid-off workers for assistance under the Trade Adjustment Act &045; just in time, according to the local employment office.

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By April 7, 80 workers had been laid off, including early retirees or those pursuing other jobs.

&uot;But the masses are still to be laid off, and that’s when we’ll really be hit&uot; with displaced workers looking for assistance, said Peggy Ballard, manager of the local WIN Job Center.

Depended on each worker’s situation, some might be eligible for more assistance than others, said Daphne Shaw, programs specialist with the Mississippi Employment Security Commission office in Jackson.

Benefits available under the Trade Adjustment Act include:

4Tuition, books and required supplies for retraining classes.

4Reimbursement for 90 percent of moving costs when the new job 51 miles or more away.

4Reimbursement for some transportation, food and lodging expenses on job interview trips.

There are some catches, however. To be eligible, workers must have already been laid off or have their hours drastically reduced.

&uot;And they can’t quit and still be eligible,&uot; Shaw said.

The mill’s workers were briefed on the full array of Trade Adjustment Act benefits when a state Rapid Response Team visited the mill in February.

But to get the full details and to sign up, workers must go to the local WIN Job Center at 310 Briarwood Drive &045; which they encouraged to do as soon as possible.

&uot;We can sit down with each one and explain what they may be eligible for,&uot; said Wanda Holder, a dislocated worker specialist with the local WIN Job Center.