GALLIPOLIS — Almost a year on, the National Emergency Grant (NEG) program that has allowed crews to clean creeks all over Gallia County has become a model program, according to state and regional officials.
During a recent meeting of the Gallia County Board of Commissioners, the NEG Area 7 Monitor and an Ohio Department of Job and Family Services representative discussed their recent trip to Gallia County and their observations of the crews in the local program.
“You guys have excellent staff — you have from day one. Generally, when I go to other counties, I always use your set up as a model. You have monitors, you have crew leaders and you’ve got managers, and I think it’s really benefited the program,” Ted Katz, the area 7 monitor, stated.
The program that began in mid-October last year through a $2.2 million grant has employed over 100 dislocated workers and long-term unemployed individuals to clean flood debris from local creeks and streams.
The NEG funds, allotted through the U.S. Department of Labor, were awarded last year to the Ohio Department and Job and Family Services to help the state recover from 2011 spring flooding.
Last year, 15 southern Ohio counties were approved to receive NEG funding: Athens, Guernsey, Jefferson, Monroe, Scioto, Belmont, Hocking, Lawrence, Morgan, Vinton, Gallia, Jackson, Meigs, Ross and Washington.
According to Katz, Gallia County’s creek cleanup program has become one of the largest among the 15 counties awarded funds.
“It’s probably one of the biggest ones in this state. You have more employees and more crews than almost anybody,” Katz said.
Gallia County Commission President Harold Montgomery stated that program has not only been a positive for those individual who have gained temporary employment, but also for the county as a whole.
“The benefit to the county is tremendous. We can really see the results of it. I get a lot of positive feedback in the community,” Montgomery said. “There are a lot of earnings going out to our folks here, and they are spending their dollars here. It’s making a difference in our local economy, as well as giving them self esteem. People in this program are able to become employable at jobs right out of this program. In fact, we’ve hired one or two here at the county that we’ve found to be very good employees in this program.
“All in all, it’s just been a win-win situation in my estimation,” he said.
Locally, the program was organized by the Gallia County Department of Job and Family Services and is managed through the Gallia County Economic Development Office; and Katz reported that he has observed the professionalism of the crews from the management positions down to the employees in the program.
“I know at least on one or two occasions that I have been visiting, and I only come down once a month, we’ve had property owners come out and thank the crews. They always speak very highly of the crews and how polite they are and how respectful they are of the properties,” he said. “So, obviously, from the highest people, down to the work crews, you guys are doing something right here. And I know that the crews are well trained, the staff has done an excellent job with safety.”
Employees in the program, who must meet certain requirements and are classified as either a dislocated worker or long-term unemployed can only work within the program for a period of up to six months. The program serves as a means by which the workers can gain experience and find other full-time, permanent employment.
“When we visit, we always talk to the supervisors and the employees and the biggest problem seems to be that they would like to do it forever,” Katz commented. “Our biggest problem is telling them they can only do it for six months. When you got employees saying they want to stay on, obviously you guys have done a good job.”