WILKES-BARRE — A team of specialists from the state’s Rapid Response Coordination Services has been deployed to the area to work with local officials and businesses impacted by last week’s severe tornado.
To help workers and businesses hit by the tornadoes that struck in Wilkes-Barre Township and multiple townships in Bradford County last week, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) has activated its Rapid Response Coordination Services.
They are meeting with the employers and affected workers to provide information about and access to services, including unemployment insurance, health and pension benefits, financial credit counseling, training programs, job search activities, education services, and social service programs, among others.
Wolf toured the affected area on Thursday with Rick Flinn, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, State Sen. John Yudichak, Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski and county and municipal officials.
“The unsettling sight of damaged businesses is a reminder of the workers’ lives this affects and the families their paychecks support,” Wolf said. “Within hours after the storm hit, we began preparing to help the workers and employers to get back on their feet.”
Jerry Oleksiak, Secretary of Labor and Industry, said whenever natural disasters create sudden changes in employment, it is a difficult and uncertain time for employees and their families.
“Labor & Industry stands ready to help mitigate the hardships and stress displaced workers go through when dealing with an unanticipated loss of income, whether that be from a natural disaster or a mass layoff event,” Oleksiak said.
RRCS activities are typically triggered by a layoff or closure, but can also be activated in response to job or business loss from natural disasters. The RRCS coordinator contacts the company to schedule a meeting, and outline services available. The coordinator will then provide customized and on-site services, in conjunction with the PA CareerLink® network. When rapid response services are complete, affected employees are referred to PA CareerLink® for post-layoff services.
Services are state and federally funded, and are provided at no additional charge to the employers and employees, regardless of the reason for the layoffs.
The department recently created the Rapid Response Information Guide, which provides a thorough break-down of the program as well as a list of services, resources, and regional contacts for easy referencing.