Feds approve millions in aid for Maui HC&S workers

Published: Mar. 24, 2016 at 10:23 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 24, 2016 at 4:08 PM HST
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PUUNENE, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Laid off Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. workers on Maui will receive millions of dollars in federal funding as the sugar plantation ends its operations, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday.

The federal funds will provide compensation to help replace lost wages and will cover expenses for job retraining.

Though the amount that will be distributed will vary depending on individual employees' circumstances, HC&S workers could get up to $2,000 a month for an additional year or longer while seeking employment, the Labor Department said.

In addition to federal funding, HC&S workers will also receive state benefits they are entitled to. Employees at other companies impacted by HC&S' closure may also be eligible for similar benefits.

The first round of layoffs for HC&S workers began earlier this month after Alexander & Baldwin made the announcement that it will close HC&S, the last sugar plantation in the state.

Some 675 HC&S workers will lose their jobs by the end of the year. The company says it will instead pursue a diversified agricultural model at HC&S.

The request for federal assistance was made by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, which represents a majority of HC&S workers.

"ILWU has stood up for Hawaii's sugar workers since the 1940s and we will continue to support our members and their families as HC&S ceases sugar operations," said Donna Domingo, president of ILWU Local 142, in a statement. "We are pursuing all avenues of assistance to find new opportunities for HC&S employees, including through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program."

U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, who worked with USDOL Secretary Tom Perez to approve the funding, touted the announcement.

"For these workers, this federal money means they have additional financial support to make ends meet and an opportunity to gain new skills and find a new job," Schatz said in a statement.

Added Hirono: "We must continue to coordinate our efforts to ensure HC&S employees and their families' needs are met during this time of transition."

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