The plant closed last month, but this week they learned they will qualify for up to two years of unemployment benefits and job training assistance under Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).
All workers who were separated from the company on or after Nov. 24, 2009, are eligible. There were 32 people laid off in the November plant closure.
“The TAA petition certification will help these former employees in a time when they need it most,” U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell said in a release. “While it will never completely replace what has been lost, it will help these employees with education, retraining and assistance in finding new jobs. I’m committed to making sure that we do all we can to protect American jobs and keep our people employed.”
The TAA program provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports. Workers may be eligible for training, job search and relocation allowances, income support and other re-employment services.
North Carolina Employment Security Commission Local Office Manager Jack Haliburton explained many of these workers have already been attending school or retraining to enter another job field. He said they could draw benefits for up to two years, depending on the educational curriculum they pick.
“The ones that have exhausted their benefits will now have access to additional benefits to complete their education,” Haliburton said. “We’re encouraging (displaced workers) to go into those skills they will be able to have long-term success in. We don’t want them to just go to school to go to school. They should look at careers in nursing, HVAC and other hard skills and maintenance work - something they’ll be able to use five years from now.”
Alpha was the second plastics plant in Hamlet to close in less than a year.
The first closure, that of the Rexam plant on County Home Road, affected about 220 people.
A press conference just a few weeks after that plant closure announced a new company, The Plastek Group, would take over the building, bringing about 250 jobs and about $19 million in investment to the county over the next three years.
In his release, Kissell blamed the American government’s free trade policies for the closure of businesses like Alpha Plastics throughout the state.
“For far too long, bad trade deals have ravaged our economy and put our workers at a disadvantage,” said Kissell. “I will continue to oppose any trade deal that does not do enough to increase American exports and keep our manufacturing jobs where they belong - right here.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.