With the continued fight to contain the wildfires in California — two of which, the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire, have reached a combined 223,285 acres burned as of November 21, 2018 — the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced it will assist victims in various employment-related ways.
“The Department of Labor is actively engaged in Administration efforts to help those impacted by devastating wildfires in California,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta in a statement, which detailed the following DOL actions:
- The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) can provide Disaster Dislocated Worker Grants to help California assess workforce needs. The disbursement of funds will be determined as needs are assessed by state and local partners. ETA is assisting in administering Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
- The Employee Benefits Security Administration released guidance for employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries.
- The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has temporarily suspended select federal contractor requirements, allowing businesses involved in wildfire relief to prioritize recovery efforts.
- The Mine Safety and Health Administration is responding to wildfires’ impact on mines, and is ready to respond more generally with specialized equipment and personnel.
- The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) is working with its grantees to identify flexibility and additional funding needs for its programs. VETS will provide assistance to employers, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and members of the National Disaster Medical System and Urban Search and Rescue service who may be deployed in support of rescue and recovery operations.
- The Wage and Hour Division is prioritizing all calls in the affected areas to continue providing uninterrupted service to workers and employers.
- The Office of Labor-Management Standards is temporarily easing reporting and other regulatory burdens on labor organizations, labor relations consultants and employers affected by the California wildfires, according to a special advisory.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is actively engaged with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. California enforces worker health and safety requirements in the state, but federal OSHA stands ready to assist affected areas upon request.
“As Californians come together to help their friends, neighbors and all individuals who have been affected recover, the Department of Labor is committed to supporting the American worker,” Acosta said.
For more information on how employers can help their employees and maintain safety, check out CalChamber’s recently published HRWatchdog post on how.
Vannessa Maravilla, Editor, CalChamber
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