Help available for workers of Ormet

Agencies and organizations throughout the region have mobilized to assist the workers and families impacted by the closure of Ormet Corp.’s Hannibal plant, and many expect the demand for their services to increase in the near future.

“I foresee after the first of the year, if they’re not back to work, then our numbers are going to go up even more,” said Janice Miller, intake worker at the GMN Tri-County Community Action Neighborhood Service Center in Woodsfield.

Ormet announced in October that the aluminum-smelting plant would close after key portions of an electrical rate reduction plan were rejected by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The plant employed nearly 1,000 people.

Miller, whose husband and son both worked at the plant, said some folks remain optimistic a deal will be worked out to allow the plant to reopen. That hope is one of the factors that may be keeping people from applying for assistance for things like food, shelter and utilities. Another may be unfamiliarity with the process or needing such help.

“We have a lot of them that just won’t use the programs, that just aren’t used to us and asking for assistance,” Miller said.

To help people find available services and assistance, Monroe County’s Ohio State University Extension office has compiled a list of entities offering everything from financial education and job training to food and clothing. It’s available online at monroe.osu.edu/topics/community-development/help-4-u, and print copies have been distributed to ONe Stop Employment and Training Centers in the region.

The list is based on a similar resource created in the wake of the 2008 announcement that the DHL hub in Wilmington was closing, putting thousands out of work. The document will be updated regularly, said Kristen Corry, family and consumer sciences educator for the extension offices in Monroe and Noble counties.

“Nothing like that existed in the county before,” she said.

GMN Tri-County Community Action – which covers Guernsey, Monroe and Noble counties – recently signed a contract with the Monroe County Commission to provide rapid response services in conjunction with local Job and Family Services departments and JobsOhio, the state’s private, nonprofit job and economic development agency.

“We’re going to add two more staff to GMN’s labor force” strictly to work with workers and families affected by the shutdown, said Gary Ricer, executive director of GMN. “We’re trying to partner with DJFS to connect these families with anything we can help them with.”

Ricer said the new employees will work in the computer lab at the Job and Family Services office at 100 Home Ave., Woodsfield, to assist people in linking with a variety of forms of assistance.

Monroe County’s One Stop Employment and Training Center is also getting some additional space and help in the form of transition centers set up by Belmont College at the Clarington Union Hall and the Black Walnut Center in Woodsfield.

“We’ve had a lot of laid-off workers going in and working on resume-writing, working on job searches,” said Janelle Comstock, off-campus operations coordinator for Belmont. “It’s been pretty well-attended, even during hunting week. They’re wanting to get back to work.”

While Monroe County is the location of the plant and home to a number of its workers, surrounding areas are also feeling the effects.

“We’ve had some people from Ormet, and we’re probably going to get more,” said Candy Nelson, supervisor with Washington County Job and Family Services.

The people contacting her office have been looking for health insurance and food assistance, Nelson said, noting enrollment for the state’s expanded Medicaid service began this week.

Employment income may make some individuals ineligible for certain types of assistance, but they should not assume there’s no help to be found, she said.

“I always tell people try and then let us weed it out for them,” Nelson said.