DOL Offering Grants to Aid in Disaster Response Following Irma
Included in DOL assistance is that OSHA is posting guidance to help employers keep their workers safe during cleanup and recovery operations, and most OSHA programmed enforcement actions will halt in affected areas to avoid disrupting recovery operations. An OSHA Emergency Response Team will provide compliance assistance.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced it has initially committed up to $40 million in Disaster Dislocated Worker Grant funding to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist in disaster response efforts after Hurricane Irma. The grants were first announced Sept. 12; the dollar amount announced on Sept. 14 may increase as the needs and impacts on state and local partners are assessed, according to the agency.
The grants will assess workforce needs in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, and other states in response to the hurricane damage, which followed the widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. DOL said it will continue to work cooperatively with states and territories to assess needs as they develop and respond accordingly, and that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has directed the department to assist the residents and businesses in affected areas.
"My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Hurricane Irma," he said. "The Department of Labor is deploying resources to support cleanup and recovery efforts. As Americans, we are strong and will come together to help our friends and neighbors."
DOL activities to assist states and territories include:
- The Employment and Training Administration will provide the Disaster Dislocated Worker Grants and is assisting in administering Disaster Unemployment Assistance for Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and possibly to other states affected by Irma if additional disaster declarations are made.
- As it did in response to Harvey, the Employee Benefits Security Administration is temporarily waiving certain requirements and deadlines related to retirement plans and group health plans and is coordinating with other federal agencies that regulate employee benefit plans on relief for employers, other plan sponsors, and plan participants and beneficiaries affected by the hurricanes.
- The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is temporarily suspending select federal contractor requirements to allow businesses involved in hurricane relief to prioritize recovery efforts.
- MSHA is preparing to send personnel and equipment to assist FEMA in recovery efforts. OSHA is posting guidance to help employers keep their workers safe during cleanup and recovery operations, and most OSHA programmed enforcement actions will halt in affected areas to avoid disrupting recovery operations. An OSHA Emergency Response Team will provide compliance assistance.