Local Puerto Rican evacuees find help getting jobs

(Western Mass News file photo)

New hope for hurricane victims from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now living in Massachusetts.

A state-wide grant has been awarded to help those displaced train for new jobs. Another big component is more English classes for those skilled workers who are just facing a language barrier.

When hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico, residents were forced to leave the island in search of a place to live.

Frank Martinez finished nursing school in June, the hurricane hit in September. He then moved to Holyoke to start again. But he tells Western Mass News without a license in the state of Massachusetts he couldn't work in his field.

A grant announced today by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is going to help Frank work in his profession.

"I'm a Nurse in Puerto Rico. its going to help me as a client, get my license.... they will help me with any kind of test I need to take to have my license here,” says Frank Martinez, Recipient of the Grant.

Frank lived on the mainland as a kid, so he speaks fluent English. This grant will offer more English classes for those who don't. And he's ecstatic.

“The employers are having the issue with that, if you can't have the basic English to be able to take demands, its difficult to get those people jobs. That's why the English classes are such a critical part of all this,” Frank tells us.

The secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, Rosalin Acosta immigrated here as a child and saw her parents struggle to return to their professions in a new country. She's focused on helping these refugees.

“We applied for this grant so we can retrain, learn English, which is really critically important for a job opportunity here in the U.S.,” Rosalin explains to Western Mass News.

This grant is intended for companies that move overseas leaving workers without jobs. But the state worked hard to apply for the $2.5 million dollars to help people here.

“Once this is up we are going to have to go back and apply for more money because more than 300 people need help,” Rosalin adds.

The program is only at 67% capacity right now so they will still be able to help another 100 people.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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