Labor Department sends more dollars to aid in Southeast Missouri flood cleanup

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Counties ravaged by flooding last spring will receive additional funds from the U.S. Department of Labor to help continuing recovery efforts.

Twenty-nine Missouri counties will receive a total of $16.5 million to create 2,200 temporary jobs to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts as a result of storms and flooding last April through June.

In addition to the Joplin area, devastated by a tornado May 22, Southeast Missouri counties receiving funds are Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Madison, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot Scott, Stoddard, St. Francois and Wayne.

The funding will allow the Missouri Disaster Recovery Jobs Program, which started last summer, to continue, said June O'Dell, president/chief operating officer of the Southeast Missouri Workforce Investment Board. Projects are winding down in many counties because it was anticipated the program would end in May.

There have been 29 cleanup and repair projects in 13 Southeast Missouri counties funded through the program.

"We'll have a few more, but I don't think we'll have the projects to the magnitude we've had so far," O'Dell said.

She estimates an additional six to 10 project sites will be funded by this latest round of assistance from the Department of Labor. It isn't yet known how much of the $16.5 million will come to Southeast Missouri. O'Dell expects the bulk of the funds to go to the Joplin area.

About $2.5 million of the $19.7 million the state received from the Department of Labor has been spent in Southeast Missouri.

A total of 75 temporary positions were created with these funds, providing workers to help repair roads or clean up debris floodwaters left behind.

Scott County was one of the first in Southeast Missouri to use workers from the Disaster Recovery Jobs Program.

"We realized the value it would give to our roads and to the traveling public," said Jamie Burger, Scott County presiding commissioner. "If not, I don't know that we would have ever got it cleaned up. We had a lot of debris strung along the roadsides. We had so many trees and limbs down."

In addition to benefiting the communities where the projects were, the program also helped the workers, nine of whom were hired by the cities or counties they worked in, O'Dell said.

"The skills obtained from working these jobs will give them that leg up and something else to build their resume," O'Dell said. In many cases, job site supervisors served as references for workers applying for permanent positions elsewhere, she said.

"The thing I like about the program more than anything is instead of just a free handout, people work for their money. Every person we had has been thrilled to death to be there working," Burger said. The Scott County Highway Department hired one of its temporary workers to fill a full-time position and another part-time, he said.

In Scott County, Disaster Recovery Jobs Program employees were used to clean up roadsides, repair washed out culverts and potholes and complete bank stabilization efforts, Burger said.

"The public probably doesn't realize the benefit that these people have served, but we truly do. It's been a blessing for us," Burger said.

This latest award brings the total amount of disaster assistance provided to the Missouri Division of Workforce Development from the U.S. Department of Labor to $36,319,488.

Those interested in applying for the temporary jobs funded through this program should go to their nearest Missouri Career Center, O'Dell said.

mmiller@semisourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

497 Charleston St., Benton, MO

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