State Awards $100,000 in Workplace Safety Grants
BOSTON — Seven Massachusetts employers — including one in Western Mass. — were awarded grants, totaling more than $100,000, to train 552 workers to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II announced. The Department of Industrial Accidents Office of Safety administers and manages the Workplace Safety Training and Education Grant program to promote safe, healthy workplace conditions through training, education, and other preventative programs for employers and employees covered by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Law. North Adams-based Berkshire Family & Individual Resources, a nonprofit, human-service organization providing support services for adults and children with disabilities, autism, and traumatic brain injuries, was awarded $10,165. Other grants were awarded to organizations in Lawrence, Dorchester, Roxbury, Boston, Wellesley, and Pepperell. “It’s not just employers and workers who pay the price for occupational fatalities, injuries, and illness. Society often bears the indirect costs of medical treatments and lost wages and productivity,” Gov. Charles Baker said. Added Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, “making employers and workers aware of workplace hazards and developing safety precautions and protocols can go a long way in reducing the costs of workplace tragedies.” With $800,000 budgeted annually for the safety grant program, the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) has funded hundreds of programs that have educated thousands of employers and workers in the Commonwealth. The new round of grants will be the last given out this fiscal year. “These grants have made Massachusetts workplaces safer and healthier for thousands of employees and simultaneously created opportunities for trained workers to move into new or higher-paying jobs,” Walker said. Grant recipients can be awarded up to $25,000 per entity each fiscal year. Employers were awarded training grants through a competitive application process through DIA.
State Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.7% in April
BOSTON — Massachusetts’ total unemployment rate dropped to 4.7% in April, a 0.1% decrease from the previous month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The new preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that Massachusetts gained 10,100 jobs in April, marking the eighth consecutive month of job gains. BLS also revised upward its March job figure, reporting the state gained 12,100 jobs, instead of 10,500, which the agency originally reported last month. Over the year, the state’s unemployment rate fell 1.1% from 5.8% in April 2014. January 2008 was the last time the state’s unemployment rate was at 4.7%. The state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.4% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s labor participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased 0.1% to 66.3%. The April labor participation rate is the highest since May 2010, and this is the third consecutive month there was an increase in the participation rate. Compared to April 2014, the labor participation rate increased 1.1% over the year. “This is the seventh consecutive month we’ve seen a decrease in unemployment,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker said. “Many more residents are employed, and labor participation has increased again.” April 2015 estimates show that 3,464,500 residents were employed and 169,400 were unemployed. There were 37,700 fewer unemployed persons over the year compared to April 2014. Over the month, jobs were up 10,100, with a private-sector gain of 9,700. Since April 2014, jobs grew by 66,100, with 57,900 private-sector job gains. Education and health services and professional, scientific, and business services were the sectors with the largest job gains over the year.
DCR to Issue Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants
BOSTON — Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Carol Sanchez announced that $65,542 has been made available in the 2015 Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant funding program for eligible towns. Funding for this program, which is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, is administered by DCR’s Bureau of Forest Fire Control and Forestry. “The Volunteer Fire Assistance grants are an extremely important funding tool to assist qualifying local fire departments that might not have the means to pay for vital equipment and training needed to combat wildland fires within their borders,” Sanchez said. “The recent outbreak of brushfires across the Commonwealth only reinforces the value of the VFA grants.” VFA grants are available to nonprofit rural call or volunteer fire departments that provide service primarily to a community or city with a population of 10,000 or fewer. Fire departments must be comprised of at least 80% call or volunteer firefighters, must be recognized as a fire department under state law, and must be compliant with the National Incident Management System. Applications with eligibility guidelines were mailed recently to the Commonwealth’s forest wardens in all eligible communities. The completed application must be received by June 12 by Program Coordinator Roxanne Savoie, DCR Bureau of Forest Fire Control, Hampton Ponds State Park, 1048 North Road, Westfield, MA 01085. For questions regarding the application process, call (413) 538-9092, ext. 400. DCR, an agency of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, oversees 450,000 acres of parks and forests, beaches, bike trails, watersheds, dams, and parkways. The agency’s mission is to protect, promote, and enhance the state’s natural, cultural, and recreational resources. To learn more about DCR, visit www.mass.gov/dcr, or e-mail [email protected]
Springfield Wins $526,813 for Sewer Improvements
SPRINGFIELD — State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, chair of the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, announced more than $6.7 million in loan-principal forgiveness for 13 communities statewide, including Springfield. The principal-forgiveness funds, administered by the state and funded by the federal government, were awarded on a competitive basis to cities and towns most in need of financial assistance associated with loan payments to the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. The funds will be used for financing improvements to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission received a $526,813 award for the CWP-14-27 Dickinson Street siphon/main interceptor rehabilitation project. The objective of the project is to rehabilitate and extend the lifespan of existing infrastructure and to improve hydraulic capacity which allows for mitigation of structural failure leading to sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) events. Approximately half of Springfield and the surrounding towns of Ludlow and Wilbraham are served by the main interceptor (MI), which runs for approximately 27,200 feet. The MI was built in 1972 and is constructed of 60-inch and 66-inch reinforced concrete pipe. Based on recent inspection, the MI is considered to be in structural distress. The Dickinson Street Siphon feeds a large catchment of flow into the MI. SSOs into the Mill River and neighborhoods have occurred at the siphon during heavy rainfall events. As part of the project, the siphon will be replaced with a large-diameter gravity sewer. “The Clean Water Trust delivers a critical service to our municipalities by financing water infrastructure projects,” Goldberg said. “Improving water quality presents a range of both public-health and economic benefits for the citizens and communities we represent.” The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust improves water quality in the Commonwealth through the provision of low-cost capital financing to cities, towns, and other eligible entities, and maintains stewardship of public funds. Because of the reduction of loan principal funded by this program, impacted communities will see their biannual loan payments reduced, freeing up capital for other local needs. The loans were originated to pay for municipal water projects such as upgrades to water-treatment facilities and stormwater and sewer-improvement projects.
Dress for Success Names New President, Members
SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts announced that Dawn Creighton, Western Mass. regional director for the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, has been named board president. Dress for Success is a not-for-profit organization promoting the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and the career-development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. “As president of Dress for Success, strengthening our community with strong women will be my priority,” said Creighton. “Dress for Success isn’t just about the suit. It’s about the women that fill the suits. I am eager to work with partnering agencies and community leaders to ensure the women of Pioneer Valley have the tools they need to be successful in the workforce.” In addition to her role with AIM, Creighton serves on multiple committees and boards, including the Human Resource Management Assoc. of Western New England, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, Internhere.com, the Hartford-Springfield Economic Partnership, United Way of Pioneer Valley, the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, and the World Affairs Council. Also named to the board are Jennifer Brown, Jonencia Wood, and Natallia Furjan-Collins. Brown has more than 16 years of experience within the staffing industry and currently is assistant vice president of operations for United Personnel, supervising candidate recruitment, client relations, staffing support, and quality assurance. Prior to joining United Personnel, she was the managing director at Staffing Now. She is a member of the Human Resource Management Assoc. and the human resource roundtable with the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast. Wood is senior director of programs for the alumnae association of Mount Holyoke College and has more than 10 years of experience focusing on the professional development and advancement of underrepresented individuals. Prior to joining Mount Holyoke, she served as a diversity specialist for Baystate Health and community action and communications coordinator for the Youth Empowerment Adolescent Health Network. Furjan-Collins is the human resources leader for MassLive. She brings with her an innovative and modern approach to employee relations in the digital environment. Prior to joining MassLive, her career spanned several years in human-resource management in her native Canada, including speaking publicly on topics such as workplace harassment and bullying. She is currently a community business partner in the sophomore business cohort program at Western New England University.