Layoffs put region in assistance mode

As the realization that they just lost their jobs continues to sink in for some employees of Mohegan Sun casino, state and local officials are readying themselves to help where they can.

Nonprofit social service agencies, job training centers and even the school systems have begun planning how they can manage the potential onslaught of displaced workers who may need services, from money for heating fuel to job retraining seminars to counseling.

As of Wednesday afternoon, none of the agencies or departments in Norwich and Montville knew how many residents in their towns had been affected.

"Whether it's one or two or 100, we'll be able to offer them services," said Kathleen Doherty-Peck, Montville's director of senior and social services.

Norwich Human Services Director Beverly Goulet said the city's own team of responders, including the local health district, nonprofit social service agencies and city departments, are scheduling a meeting to get organized.

Goulet said because of the severance package offered by the casino and unemployment benefits, her office may not know for months whether people need additional services.

Goulet said she's been in contact with a member of the Mohegan Tribal Council - she declined to identify the individual - and that her office will work with the tribe in hopes of reaching the displaced workers to offer assistance if available

At the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, Marketing and Communications Director Laura Giannelli said the group has already contacted the state Department of Labor and has offered to assist the region's Rapid Response Layoff Support team. The Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board is also preparing to help with job retraining efforts.

As social and labor service agencies coordinate, the school districts in the city and town are also preparing for what could be an anxiety-ridden time for the children of displaced workers.

Montville's Mohegan Elementary School learned of the layoffs when a family member of a staff person was let go, according to Principal Lorilyn Caron.

The school, which has several students whose parents work at the casino, already has a system in place for helping families struggling economically. For example, a special backpack program sends food home for the weekend on Fridays.

Caron said she's spoken with the school's social psychologist about how to identify children with increased anxiety that could be the result of economic conditions and changes at home.

While many districts are already trained in identifying and offering assistance to any families in need, Norwich Superintendent of Schools Abby Dolliver said any action taken in response to the casino layoffs could be on a larger scale.

Dolliver already had a meeting planned for Monday with Goulet to review other ideas on when the schools and social services could collaborate; they'll just add the layoff issue to the list.

m.bard@theday.com

www.zip06.com/montville

www.zip06.com/norwich

WHOM TO CONTACT

Contact information for assistance:

Montville Social Services (860) 848-8820 or (860) 848-0422

Norwich Human Services (860) 823-3778

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, Info Line 211

Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board (860) 859-4100

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