Tallahassee, FL — Governor Ron DeSantis this week awarded $7.7 million through the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant program and the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to support a large-scale rapid credentialing effort between three state colleges, two technical colleges and local workforce development boards. Governor DeSantis also announced $1 million through the Florida Disaster Fund to organizations to support emergency management personnel, national guardsmen and community members in the recovery process.
“Today’s awards will help residents rebuild, help emergency management personnel and national guardsmen begin their recovery, and provide new employment opportunities for residents,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.
“Governor DeSantis has led an unprecedented effort to expedite recovery in the areas of our state affected by Hurricane Ian,” said CareerSource Florida President and CEO Michelle Dennard. “The Governor’s investment will provide additional resources to connect Floridians with rewarding new careers. We applaud the selfless service of our colleagues at CareerSource Suncoast, CareerSource Heartland, and CareerSource Southwest Florida as well as our education partners who are helping make their communities whole again.”
The Governor’s announcement comes as state and local workforce system partners continue helping businesses and individuals impacted by Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole. Category four Ian, which made landfall Sept. 28 near Fort Myers Beach in Lee County, caused massive destruction in coastal communities and major flooding across south, central and northeast Florida. Nicole, a category one hurricane, caused damage along the east coast and further destruction to communities previously impacted by Ian.
While staff at career centers across the state have been dealing with their own home and property damage, including flooded cars, damaged homes and power outages, they rallied immediately to assist their customers. Colleagues from other areas rushed personnel, mobile units, equipment and supplies to help in hard-hit areas.
“On behalf of the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors, I am inspired by and grateful for the many staff members working around the clock to help their customers and colleagues while managing their own storm losses,” said CareerSource Florida Board Chair Stephanie Smith, vice president of state and regional affairs at TECO Energy. “We are thankful for the immediate response mobilized by Governor Ron DeSantis and sincerely appreciate the workforce professionals throughout the CareerSource Florida network and the Department of Economic Opportunity who left their homes and families to assist employers and job seekers in other parts of the state who need our help.”
CareerSource Southwest Florida, serving Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties, was able to open its five career centers within a week, offering free internet access, phone, fax, copying/printing, and customer service for residents needing help with filing for disaster assistance. CareerSource South Florida, CareerSource Northeast Florida and CareerSource Research Coast all sent teams and/or mobile units to support local staff in assisting their neighbors. In cooperation with LeeTran Bus Service and the Lee County Convention and Visitors Bureau, CareerSource Southwest Florida also established free daily transportation services for residents of devastated Fort Myers Beach to the Disaster Recovery Center at Lakes Regional Library. Busses and trolleys run every 45 minutes to ensure displaced residents can meet with local, state and federal disaster assistance agencies.
“We are grateful for the solid show of unity from the entire CareerSource Florida leadership team and staff throughout the state and for their selfless offer of time, manpower, and resources extended to us immediately following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian,” said CareerSource Southwest Florida Executive Director Peg Elmore. “The support we received and continue to receive represents that ours is truly one network working together for one common goal – to meet and exceed the workforce needs of the residents and businesses throughout Florida.”
All career centers statewide opened within days of the hurricanes with the single exception of the career center in North Port, co-located in a building that suffered significant water damage, but teams from CareerSource Pasco Hernando helped CareerSource Suncoast with customer support at a nearby Disaster Recovery Center. CareerSource Suncoast team members also have called dozens of local employers who responded to the state’s Business Damage Assessment Survey to help them access aid applications.
“CareerSource Suncoast is working diligently to assist clients at the Disaster Recovery Center and proactively reaching out to businesses affected by Hurricane Ian to aid the relief efforts,” said CareerSource Suncoast President and CEO Joshua Matlock.
In DeSoto and Hardee counties, which experienced devastating flooding, CareerSource Heartland is actively working with local municipalities, businesses and individuals to ensure access to disaster recovery resources. Staff members are helping affected customers find temporary and permanent work to replace lost jobs and apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Farther north, CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion dispatched a mobile unit immediately after the storm to support CareerSource Flagler Volusia in providing resources to people in need. After an initial deployment to a shelter of evacuated Daytona Beach residents, many of whom could not return to their homes, the mobile unit traveled to some of the hardest-hit communities of Oak Hill, Edgewater and New Smyrna Beach.
CareerSource Flagler Volusia also is collaborating with community and faith-based organizations to strengthen long-term recovery efforts, including the United Way of Volusia and Flagler Counties. The team is coordinating hundreds of volunteers from across the country to assist businesses and residents with damage repair.
“To witness the compassion and dedication of volunteers who have put their lives on hold to come to Florida and assist our residents with rebuilding restores one’s faith after witnessing such devastation,” said Amanda Lasecki, vice president of operations for the United Way of Volusia and Flagler Counties. “Through our partnership with CareerSource Flagler Volusia, we can hire a temporary Disaster Relief Engagement Coordinator to ensure that help goes to where it is most needed.”
The CareerSource Florida network works directly with the state Department of Economic Opportunity, state Department of Children and Families and others to help Floridians connect with disaster assistance programs. Available assistance for businesses includes Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans and the state’s Business Damage Assessment Survey. Assistance for employees includes Disaster Unemployment Assistance and the Dislocated Worker Grant Program, which helps fund temporary recovery and cleanup work as well as employment and training services in disaster areas. For more information about available assistance programs, including paid work to help with recovery efforts, please visit careersourceflorida.com/disaster-recovery, and floridastormrelief.com for additional resources.
ABOUT CAREERSOURCE FLORIDA
CareerSource Florida, with its business-led board of directors, provides policy direction for talent development programs administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida’s 24 local workforce development boards and their 100 career centers. The CareerSource Florida State Board serves as the Governor’s principal workforce policy and investment board, working in partnership with DEO, which is responsible for the state workforce system’s fiscal and administrative affairs, and local workforce development boards that serve Florida’s businesses and career seekers. Together, the CareerSource Florida network connects employers with qualified, skilled talent and Floridians with employment and career development opportunities to achieve economic prosperity. Learn more at careersourceflorida.com.