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U.S. tackles long-term unemployment with $170 million in grants

U.S. tackles long-term unemployment with $170 million in grants
The Labor Department aims to help the 3 million Americans who are long-term unemployed by offering $170 million in grants. (Mike Groll / Associated Press)

The U.S. Labor Department is taking on long-term unemployment – which last month affected 3 million Americans – by issuing nearly $170 million in grants to help train, counsel and place job seekers.

Returning workers to long-jobs is "one of the most important pieces of unfinished business from the Great Recession," Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

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Grants ranging from $3 million to $10 million were awarded to 23 partnerships in 20 states and Puerto Rico.

Recipients include collaborations between nonprofit groups, local governments and employers. Two are in California, including San Francisco Jewish Vocational Services Tech Start.

The program, developed with input from companies such as EBay, Charles Schwab and Twitter, sends long-term unemployed job seekers to either a five-week intensive job search boot camp, a multi-month training program or a longer one- to two-year process.

Other projects will offer customized classroom sessions, financial counseling, child care support, healthcare, apprenticeships, resume coaching, mock interviews and more.

The ranks of the long-term unemployed, which include Americans who have gone jobless for at least 27 weeks, have shrunk by 900,000 people since December. That's 90% of the total drop in unemployment over the period.

Still, the demographic accounts for nearly a third of unsuccessful job seekers and is twice its pre-recession size.

Employers often pass over such candidates, wary that the gaps in their resumes will translate into rusty skills. Many of the long-term unemployed are older and face age discrimination from hiring managers.

And “that’s just plain old wrong,” Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council, said during the conference call.

Zients and Perez, who is considered a front-runner to replace Eric H. Holder Jr. as the nation's attorney general, are scheduled Wednesday to discuss hiring strategies with human resource officers from companies such as Citigroup Inc., CVS Caremark Corp. and Boeing Co.

The Office of Personnel Management is also issuing guidelines showing federal agencies how to add more long-term unemployed workers to their payrolls.

"In order for America to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy, we can't afford to have qualified individuals stuck on the sidelines," said Zients, who said that long-term unemployed workers tend to perform just as well as other employees once they're hired.

Twitter: @tiffhsulatimes

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