$5 million grant to help Delco refinery workers find new jobs

Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor & Industry has received $5 million in federal funds to help laid-off employees of two oil refineries in Delaware County.

The emergency grant will pay for training and job-placement services for 1,000 workers let go from the Sunoco and ConocoPhillips refineries. The companies have been seeking buyers for the industrial sites. Sunoco says it has no takers for a refinery. ConocoPhillips has not returned calls about potential buyers.

Michelle Staton, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for workforce development, says her response team stepped in early to get information to people losing refinery jobs.

“We’ve gone in at their lunch breaks. We’ve gone in after hours. We’ve set up transition centers so we can work with them to basically help them transition from working with this company to possibly not working,” says Staton.

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Her agency began applying for federal set-aside funds back in January to cope with the large numbers of people in need of assistance. While there have been discussions of other industrial uses for the sites, most proposals call for far fewer permanent employees than work at the refineries.

“This is support at a time in which our region is going to be very fragile. And this may help more people get back to work quicker,” said Congressman Pat Meehan.

The facilities in Trainer and Marcus Hook, Pa., were idled late last year. Another Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia is slated to shut down this summer.

Update March 28, 2011 11 a.m.

Spokesman Rich Johnson says ConocoPhillips is still searching for a buyer for its refinery. Due to a recent show of interest, the company is extending a March 30 deadline for the sales process to the end of May.

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