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Federal Aid for HC&S Sugar Workers on Maui Assured

Posted September 2, 2016, 01:48 PM HST Updated October 18, 2016, 01:39 PM HST
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Maui sugar. Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company mill. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Maui sugar. Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company mill. Photo by Wendy Osher.

US Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) announced today that all displaced Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company employees are now eligible to receive federal assistance from the US Department of Labor. This funding will provide compensation to help replace lost wages, cover expenses for job training as well as allow workers to begin training while still employed.

Trade Adjustment Assistance was originally granted in March. That assistance is available to workers who are separated before November 16. Today’s expanded ruling, which came as a result of petition filed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, will cover the 350 workers who lose their jobs after November 16.

Senator Schatz, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee said, “This funding will help ensure that all HC&S workers make the transition to new jobs.  Ever since learning of HC&S’s plans to close its sugar operation on Maui, I have been working with Secretary Tom Perez to ensure that these workers would receive the federal assistance they need. Losing a job can have a devastating impact on a family and I’m very glad we were able to find funding to help provide some relief.”

Senator Hirono said, “Today’s announcement once again demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to HC&S employees and the Maui community.  As HC&S completes its final harvest before the end of the year, I will continue to fight for the displaced workers, including the remaining 350 HC&S employees who will lose their jobs on December 30, and their families so they have access to all available federal assistance.”

The USDOL originally allocated federal assistance for a portion of displaced HC&S workers, but will now cover all displaced employees. This funding will benefit roughly 350 workers in need of training in order to reenter the workforce. The amount of assistance a worker will receive depends on individual circumstances, but workers may access up to $2,000 a month for an additional year or longer while training for a new job.

“The ILWU is pleased that the USDOL has certified our second petition for TAA to benefit the last group of workers, more than half the workforce, being laid off at HC&S,” said Donna Domingo, President of the ILWU Local 142. “TAA eligibility offers opportunity and hope for training and other resources to help laid-off workers in this next phase of their lives,” said Senator Hirono.

Senator Hirono wrote to Secretary Perez to emphasize the impact that the cessation of sugar production will have on Maui County. The closing of sugar production will mean the eventual laying off of all 675 workers on Maui by the end of the year.

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“We appreciate the tireless efforts of the ILWU and Senator Hirono to secure valuable financial support from the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which can now be accessed by all affected HC&S employees,” said Chris Benjamin, president and CEO of Alexander & Baldwin. “Programs like this are critical to our employees as they transition into new opportunities.”

Senator Schatz worked closely with the USDOL and determined that HC&S’s workers are eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance. The TAA program provides benefits to eligible workers who lost their jobs due to the adverse effects of foreign trade. Senator Schatz has also cosponsored legislation to reauthorize the worker aid program.

This new federal funding will provide support for HC&S workers on top of already existing state benefits that they are eligible to receive.

TAA includes training, job search assistance, and other resources for workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade. Each application for TAA must be approved by the Secretary of Labor before workers can access this program. Click here to learn more about the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program.

Displaced HC&S workers who have questions on accessing federal relief can contact their local Workforce Development Division One-Stop Office at (808) 984-2091.

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