State offers special help to laid-off veneer mill workers

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2002

KETCHIKAN - The state is offering special services to help workers who lost their jobs when Gateway Forest Products veneer mill shut down.

The assistance by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development was announced Thursday by Gov. Tony Knowles's office. State officials say the action comes after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court dismissed the Ketchikan company's Chapter 11 protection from creditors last week.

Gateway has been under Chapter 11 protection since February 2001.

The company's debts exceed $45 million, including more than $15 million owed to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, according to court documents.

The company ceased operations in mid-December and laid off most or all of its veneer manufacturing staff. The company's efforts to obtain new financing and resume operations failed when potential lenders withdrew tentative offers in March and April.

In last week's action, Bankruptcy Court Judge Donald MacDonald approved a motion by U.S. trustee Barbara Franklin to dismiss the case.

Knowles asked the department to make sure the company's 63 laid-off workers are aware of the full range of services the state can offer, his office said.

The labor department's rapid response team has scheduled a May 9 informational meeting for workers in Ketchikan. Rapid response is triggered when a single employer lays off or terminates 35 or more people, Ron Hall, director of the department's employment security division, told the Ketchikan Daily News.

Besides unemployment insurance payments, affected workers will likely qualify for the full array of services available to dislocated workers.

That includes funds for retraining programs and additional education for re-employment opportunities, Hall said.

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