Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and Bob Andrzejczak to help displaced casino workers prepare to re-enter the workforce was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-4103) would establish the Education Initiative for Former Casino Workers to support training and educational instruction for former casino employees. The program would dedicate $1.35 million – 5 percent of the 45 percent of Workforce Development Partnership Fund monies reserved for customized training – to assisting individuals who were employed by a casino in the past two years or are employed and have received a notice of layoff.
“Just as much as this legislation is about helping these workers pursue a new career path as individuals, it’s also about restoring the region’s economy overall,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic), who credits Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) with proposing the idea. “This is an unparalleled opportunity, working in a bipartisan manner, to help transform Atlantic City. We must capitalize on this now for the sake of our hard-working middle-class families across South Jersey.”
Under the bill, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development would screen eligible program participants for career readiness and develop and facilitate plans to provide instruction and ease the transition to a new career.
“Revitalizing the Atlantic City area starts with investing in people. By preparing former casino workers with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue in-demand occupations, this legislation will help get the region on the right track,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “The faster we get people back to work, the faster we can see families and communities in and around Atlantic City reach their full potential.”
Workforce Development Partnership funds may be used to cover expenses including, but not limited to: tuition for county college classes; tuition or other enrollment fees for post-secondary education at a county vocational school district or for training provided by an approved training provider; books; transportation and lab fees.
The program would accept new participants for three years after the bill’s enactment or until the average unemployment rate in Atlantic County falls below 5 percent for three consecutive months. Program funding would be available to participants for up to four years from the date of their enrollment.
The closures of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, the Trump Plaza Casino and the Revel Casino Hotel in 2014 resulted in more than 8,000 individuals in Atlantic City losing jobs.
The bill, which comes after Mazzeo and Andrzejczak helped secure $29 million in federal funds to support displaced casino workers, was approved by the Assembly Labor Committee.