- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao yesterday announced the delivery of a $10 million National Emergency Grant to the state of Virginia in an effort to stimulate an economy wracked by the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The grant, to be distributed by the Virginia Employment Commission, will help the 35,000 Virginians currently seeking unemployment compensation. The grant will spread $5 million to workers in Northern Virginia and $5 million to the rest of the state.

The grant will fund job training, careering counseling, and in some cases, rent, mortgage or child care expenses, Mrs. Chao said.

"I want people to know that the money from today's grant will bring both help and hope to the people of Virginia," Mrs. Chao said.

The announcement of the grant came at a press conference outside Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, where 5,000 workers have been laid off and not yet rehired. The airport was closed for about three weeks following September 11.

"The terrorist attack on the Pentagon set off an economic shock wave here in northern Virginia that is rippling throughout the state," said Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, who also attended the press conference. "This assistance will make a real difference in the lives of many Virginians."

National Emergency Grants are authorized by the government through the Workforce Investment Act. For a state to receive a grant, governors must show proof of mass layoffs or significant business closings in the state. Mr. Gilmore is said to have asked for the grant immediately following the September 11 attacks. The state of New York secured a $25 million grant on Sept. 22.

Mr. Gilmore said 35,000 Virginians have filed for unemployment since September 11, and that unemployment is double what it was during this time last year. He said the terrorists attacks on the Pentagon and the resulting closing of Reagan Airport had an immediate effect on Northern Virginians, but that ripple effects have been felt throughout the state. By some estimates, Viriginia lost at least $1.2 billion as a result of the terrorist attack, Mr. Gilmore said.

Travel and tourism, Virginia's third-largest industry, have been especially hard hit. The Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association reported last week that restaurants saw a 50 percent decrease in business since the attacks, hotels saw a 70 percent decrease and business to travel-oriented businesses like travel agents and airlines dropped 46 percent.

Hot spots like Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Paramount's Kings Dominion saw immediate drops in visitors. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia's top tourist attraction, has reportedly rebounded favorably since the attacks, as visitors look for sources of patriotism. Mr. Gilmore announced a $1.5 million advertising and grant plan designed to spark Virginia's tourism industry in the short term.

Mrs. Chao and Mr. Gilmore took the opportunity yesterday to pitch President Bush's "Back to Work Relief Package" as part of the overall economic-stimulus bill Congress is considering. The package temporarily extends unemployment benefits by 13 weeks for those Americans who lost their jobs as a direct result of the September 11 attacks and provides for $3 billion more in special National Emergency Grants.

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