By Brian Tumulty
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - There is still money available from the economic stimulus that was intended to jump-start the economy during the Great Recession.
The recession officially ended in June 2009, but four years later New York still has 268,000 more unemployed workers than it did at the start of the downturn in December 2007. And with 720,917 workers unemployed in June, New York is seeking some of that money for job retraining.
The February 2009 legislation set aside $2 billion for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program. The Labor Department has $475.5 million of that remaining and plans to award it by Sept. 30.
The program targets unemployed veterans and people who lost jobs because of foreign trade, but it also helps community college students.
New York's job market has improved since the beginning of the year, with the statewide jobless rate down by nearly a full percentage point - from 8.4 percent in January to 7.5 percent in June. But trade-related job losses have continued.
Since the beginning of this year, 3,917 workers laid off by 26 firms around the state have been certified as eligible for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance, which includes job retraining at a community college, extended unemployment benefits or reimbursement for relocating to another city.
Those layoffs affected employees at Interstate Brands Corp. around the state, Pfizer pharmaceutical workers in the Rockland County community of Pearl River, Xerox Corp. and Getting Sourcing in the Rochester area, Ithaco Space Systems of Ithaca and Husky Injection Molding Systems in Buffalo.
Another 3,756 workers laid off from 69 firms in New York were certified as TAA eligible in 2012, including Eastman Kodak employees in Rochester and IBM employees in Armonk, Endicott, Poughkeepsie and Rochester. Employees laid off by Verizon Data Services in Rye Brook and White Plains also qualify.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Wednesday he supports an application by the State University of New York for a $23 million job training grant that would be used by 29 community colleges around the state in partnership with 60 hospitals to prepare people in the health care field.
"If SUNY wins, the worker training programs will be just what the doctor ordered for local unemployed workers and veterans as well as our college graduates,'' he said. "Upstate New York's medical sector is a growing industry and it will put our schools on the cutting edge.''
According to SUNY, there are 1,056 TAA-eligible displaced workers in the Southern Tier, 678 in Western New York, 342 in the Rochester-Finger Lakes area and 100 in the Hudson Valley.
Each of those regions has between 2,000 and 3,500 unemployed veterans, according to Schumer's estimate.
Last year, New York received two grants under the federal program.
Monroe Community College served as the lead for a consortium of community colleges in upstate communities, the Hudson Valley and on Long Island that received $14.6 million to train 3,000 people for advanced manufacturing jobs.
Manhattan Community College received $3 million to train 450 people in health information technology positions.
In 2011, the City University of New York received $18.6 million for adult learner programs.
The latest proposal is designed to take advantage of job growth in the health care field, according to Schumer. "There are shortages in licensed health care workers that have the skill set to fill jobs,'' he said. "Jobs in the health care field are good-paying. They are secure career jobs. They are usually immune to foreign competition.''