HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Hundreds of laid off coal miners got some assistance Wednesday during open enrollment for the HOME - Helping Our Miners Every Day - initiative.
Nearly 200 out-of-work miners and their families flocked to Job Sight in Perry County, seeking help through the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.
"We're going to have coal mining in this region for a long time," EKCEP executive director Jeff Whitehead said. "But what we do know is that the coal industry has an ebb and flow. We are in a transitional period right now."
That is why these miners met with counselors who helped them develop new career skills and connected them with other job opportunities.
Many of the attendees, like Ricky Napier, had been out of work for a matter of days. Napier was let go from TECO on Friday.
"I came here to try and take advantage of some of the opportunities they offer for dislocated or laid off miners," Napier said. "I feel like I got very well-informed and there are some good opportunities out there that a lot of these miners ought to be taking advantage of."
Many of them may lose their unemployment benefits by early next year.
“We feel that pressure, we feel that worry for them” EKCEP spokesman Michael Cornett said. We wanted to bring HOME into existence quickly so we could address not only the downturn but also the desperation with them possibly losing the income that they do have coming in.”
More than 2,000 eastern Kentucky miners have been laid off in the last year, according to EKCEP statistics.
Other HOME events will soon be held in Pikeville and Harlan.
If you would like more information on the HOME intitiative, visit your local community action agency or log on to EKCEP’s website, ekcep.org.