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September 25, 2005

Governor Blagojevich announces state and private employers helping to find jobs for hurricane victims in Illinois
State contacts businesses to list additional jobs at IllinoisSkillsMatch.com, these positions also available to Illinois residents

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that a partnership between state government and the private sector is helping find jobs for people displaced by two major Gulf hurricanes who are now living in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) contacted the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Illinois employers with 250 or more employees to ask them to identify job openings for hurricane evacuees living in Illinois. More than 70 companies responded to the call and have identified hundreds of jobs.

"When we opened our doors to thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina – and now victims of Hurricane Rita as well – we took on the responsibility of helping them get back on their feet. We’re providing housing, health care, food, clothing and we’re helping to find them jobs. By working with our friends in the private sector, we’re matching job skills to jobs available. I’m proud of the way this state responded to the wide range of needs hurricane victims are facing after the disaster on the Gulf Coast," said Gov. Blagojevich.

Major corporations like General Electric, Harris Bank, Aon Corporation and Caterpillar are among the more than 70 companies that responded to the state’s request. IDES is using its free online job matching service, Illinois Skills Match to help match people to potential jobs.

"IDES was asked by our affected sister states to identify jobs that may suit those who had to evacuate their communities. Our goal is to use Illinois Skills Match to quickly match Katrina evacuees with suitable employment and help them recover from this disaster as quickly as possible," said IDES Director Brenda A. Russell.

Russell also notes that jobs listed at IllinoisSkillsMatch.com are open to all Illinois residents. IDES uses Illinois Skills Match to help employers find qualified employees with the right skills. Only a few of the jobs listed with ISM are restricted to hurricane evacuees; the vast majority are available to the general public. IDES will also work with employers who are targeting jobs for hurricane evacuees to identify qualified Illinois residents for these jobs if a qualified hurricane victim is not found.

The state is working to ensure evacuees are aware of the job assistance created to help them. IDES staff is providing direct assistance to the evacuees in IDES local offices and at emergency sites throughout the state. The IDES website, www.ides.state.il.us, is set up with a number of links to maximize the possibilities of matching available jobs with the appropriate candidates.

In addition to the Illinois Skills Match, links from the IDES homepage include other Katrina-related employment sites. The U.S. Department of Labor's America's Job Bank has a special site, Katrina Recovery Jobs Connection (www.jobsearch.org/katrinajobs). CareerBuilder, a website affiliated with the Chicago Tribune and other national newspapers, has a section set up for Katrina victims at www.katrina.jobs. Chicagojobs.com, associated with 19 newspaper publishers in the greater Chicago area, is a website devoted exclusively to Chicago area jobs, has a special site at www.Chicagojobs.com/Katrina. All the Katrina-related sites are free to employers and evacuees.

Other businesses have reached out and provided services to Katrina victims. One of the best examples is a partnership with Spherion, a private staffing firm. Their employees volunteered their time to help Katrina victims assemble resumes and set up free email accounts.

While it will be days or weeks before these efforts may translate into actual employment for the Katrina victims, the state is encouraged by the initial response from Illinois employers, and the spirit of cooperation it has received from the private sector.

The Blagojevich Administration is also helping displaced victims process unemployment claims and facilitating job training. IDES and Central Management Services employees have set up remote computer stations in the state facilities in Tinley Park, Alton, Elgin and Rockford, where evacuees are being provided housing.

Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29th, Gov. Blagojevich ordered all state agencies to respond in a coordinated manner to help both the recovery and cleanup efforts in the Gulf Coast, and the victims coming into Illinois. Illinois’ efforts to date include:

· Arriving on four flights arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Illinois has received more than 430 displaced victims from the Gulf Coast states. Individuals and families, upon arrival received immediate medical care and were provided housing from the state in Tinley Park, Elgin, Alton and Rockford. A total of 4,455 victims directly contacted the state for services, according to numbers provided by the Illinois Department of Human Services. DHS also estimates over 8,600 evacuees are currently in Illinois. Governor Blagojevich announced on September 4th, Illinois is ready to receive as many as 10,000 displaced victims, and called elected officials, community leaders, not-for-profit organizations, religious institutions and social service providers to match the State of Illinois’ coordinated relief effort to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

· More than 400 children displaced by Hurricane Katrina are enrolled in 46 school districts across the state, as districts responded to the Governor’s call to waive residency requirements and open their doors to displaced students.

· Gov. Blagojevich deployed nearly 2,100 Illinoisans to help Louisiana respond to the devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The deployments include nearly 600 firefighters and 800 National Guard troops.

· A group of 130 state employees returned to Illinois after helping the Louisiana Department of Social Services process 25,000 evacuees for emergency food stamps, unemployment benefits, temporary housing and other assistance. All totaled, about 130 Illinois state employees representing more than a dozen agencies assisted Hurricane Katrina victims in the Gulf Coast region.

· The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has reached asked state-chartered banks and thrifts to provide free check cashing, eliminate ATM service fees and help establish checking and saving accounts for displaced victims now residing in Illinois.

· The Illinois Department of Revenue extended filing deadlines to taxpayers from counties damaged by Hurricane Katrina and who owe Illinois taxes, until October 31, 2005.

· Illinois established a hotline to provide Hurricane Katrina victims with immediate assistance regarding social services offered by the State of Illinois, including health care, crisis counseling, food stamps, K-12 public school registration, and services for veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities. The number, 1-800-843-6154 is staffed by the Department of Human Services.

· A total of 134 highly trained law enforcement officers from state and local agencies were deployed to Louisiana. These include Weapons of Mass Destruction teams, Tactical Response teams, Underwater Dive teams, a mobile command post, various all terrain vehicles, boats and trucks.

· The Illinois Department of Transportation contributed 500 yards of fencing and 500 stakes on two lowboys pulled by two semis that will be in the law enforcement convoy.

· The Governor dispatched a total of 52 members of the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Teams (IMERT) to Louisiana to assist with care of the massive number of sick and injured victims from Hurricane Katrina, and dispatched an 11-member Incident Management Team to George County, Mississippi to assist local emergency managers during the crisis. This week, a 10-member IMT team left Springfield to relieve the first IMT group. The newly deployed team includes two employees from IEMA and eight emergency management coordinators from around the state.

· The state’s 39 community colleges are accommodating Illinois residents displaced from higher education studies because of the hurricane, while Illinois’ 12 public universities are taking in students affected by the destruction along the Gulf Coast.

· The Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency have offered free camping and removed length of stay requirements for Hurricane victims at all state parks and historic sites that offer camping.

· The Illinois Department of Transportation waived certain transportation rules to allow standard-sized semis carrying supplies and materials to Louisiana to be overweight by up to 15,000 pounds when they travel on Illinois roads. Currently, a standard-sized semi is only allowed to weigh 80,000 pounds when traveling through Illinois. IDOT will also grant emergency permits to companies that need to move oversized equipment to the impacted area.

· The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) made available various items through IEMA’s emergency procurement system including 256,000 half pints of water, 8,500 blankets, 18,300 clothing items, and 2,900 dozen packages of cleaning supplies. IDOC has also delivered 3,000 bedrolls to the Red Cross in Hillside.

· The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs sent toiletries and food to facilities where displaced victims have been housed, and in collaboration with several other federal and private agencies will send food to the Gulf Coast states.

· The Department of Central Management Services made available its Bureau of Communication and Computer Services (BCCS) to help provide communications assistance to devastated areas. Using broadband services, including high speed data transmission to remote areas underserved by local carriers, BCCS can provide relief command centers with uplinks for phone and internet access, and also links to shelters so displaced individuals can call loved ones.

· The Department of Human Services sent staff skilled in processing Food Stamps, to help the United States Department of Agriculture implement a Disaster Food Stamp program in 25 Louisiana counties.

· The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health dispatched twelve specialists to Louisiana. The specialists are members of four environmental health strike teams being sent by the state at the request of the Louisiana Emergency Management Agency. Their expertise includes drinking water, sewage, food safety and food salvage. In addition, two IEPA trucks stocked with emergency response equipment and two IPDH vehicles were deployed.


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