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Connecticut Orgs Receive $1M for Environmental Job Training

The WorkPlace Inc., and the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board have received funding from the EPA to launch environmental careers for students from underserved areas of the state known as brownfields.

(TNS) — Two Connecticut organizations received a total of $1 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide environmental job training for city residents, the agency announced on Wednesday.

The Workplace, Inc., based in Bridgeport, and the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board in Waterbury received grants through the agency's Brownfields Jobs Training Program, which helps launch environmental careers for students from underemployed areas that have been impacted by polluted and often abandoned properties known as brownfields.

President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law increased funding for the program, investing $1.5 billion over five years.

"This program is an important aspect of upholding commitments to environmental justice in the very communities impacted by brownfield sites," Katie Dykes, commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in the press release. "The Workplace and the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board have a long history of training those in need of a new career and supplying Connecticut with high-skilled employees to remediate and redevelop brownfields, a task vitally important for Connecticut's future."

The organizations will use their grants to train students for positions in the environmental remediation field and support economic development in their respective cities over the next five years.

Up to 60 students can participate in The WorkPlace's program — directed to students from underserved areas in the Lower Naugatuck Valley — and receive up to two state and nine federal certifications after completing the training.

The Northwest Regional Workforce will train up to 80 students from the City of Waterbury, specifically low-income, minority and underemployed residents, who will earn up to three state and four federal certifications.

"I work closely with the leadership of The WorkPlace and have seen first-hand their commitment to training and diversifying Bridgeport's workforce," Jim Himes, the U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 4th district, said in the release. "I'm grateful that these funds are going to support that mission not just in Connecticut's Fourth District, but across the state."

The EPA has awarded 371 Brownfield Job Training grants since 1998, several of which have gone towards the two programs, according to the press release. Graduates of the Brownfields Job Training programs earn certifications that launch long-term careers, not only temporary contractual work.

Many trainees are from environmental justice communities, which are historically underserved neighborhoods and/or overburdened by pollution or environmental pollution hazards.

"The investments announced today will not only support the cleanup of some of our nation's most polluted areas, but they will also equip a new generation of workers to take on the significant environmental challenges that plague overburdened neighborhoods, and jumpstart sustainable, long-term careers in the communities that need these jobs the most," EPA Deputy Administer Janet McCabe said in the press release.

Waterbury and Bridgeport are among Connecticut's top ten most "distressed municipalities," or a U.S. census block group in which at least 30 percent of the population has an income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Waterbury, Bridgeport and three other Connecticut cities altogether contain 19 percent of the state's population and 20 percent of its potential pollution sources. The five cities also contain 71 percent of Connecticut's minority population.

The EPA also announced in June that the Brownfields program is also investing over $4 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to clean up and redevelop contaminated sites throughout Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley.

The state is expected to receive a total of $6 billion in improvements for transportation improvement and Internet access. As of November 2022, Connecticut has received a total of $2.2 billion in funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and has allocated funds towards over 50 projects, like the Maintenance Wind Port Project in Bridgeport and the Bradley International Airport Expansion.

(c)2022 The News-Times (Danbury, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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