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Sandy grant helps hire 500 for storm cleanup

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A $15.6 million National Emergency Grant has helped the state hire more than 500 people for cleanup work in 15 counties to date.

Labor and Workforce Commissioner Harold J. Wirths made the announcement during a visit to Hillsborough, one of the communities utilizing grant-funded workers. Some 22 people are working in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, the state said.

"The day after the storm hit, my staff went to work to secure this National Emergency Grant with the goal of hiring unemployed people to work on cleaning up their communities after Hurricane Sandy," Wirths said, in a press release.

The grant is one of a handful of tools being administered through Wirth's office.

Gov. Chris Christie created a $26 million recovery package to help workers and businesses affected by the storm.

The $11 million Skills4Jersey program helps employers train new or current employees in highly skilled, generally high-wage jobs.

The Recovery4Jersey program awards grants to train existing workers or hire new workers in the recovery effort. The program is split into two parts, a $4 million initial phase, followed by a second, $7 million phase to launch next month.

The state will award $4 million under a third program, Opportunity4Jersey, to use the state's workforce training organizations and community colleges to help close a so-called "skills gap" within the state's workforce.

More than 200 businesses have already applied for grants under the three programs. Christie is allocating another $500,000 to create new statewide "talent networks" – one is focused on the Sandy recovery; the other on the retail, hospitality and tourism industries. They join six existing talent networks, which are focused on life sciences, health care, transportation, technology, advanced manufacturing and financial services.

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