By JIM KUHNHENN
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Obama administration is announcing $170 million in grants divided among 23 work projects across the country that aim to reduce the number of long-term unemployed Americans.
Administration officials said that while the number of workers who are jobless for more than 26 weeks has declined, it remains at a historic high and is a lingering blemish in the economic recovery. The concern is that the longer someone is out of a job, the harder it gets to find a new one.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez and National Economic Council director Jeff Zients announced the grant awards late Tuesday. The two officials and Vice President Joe Biden will hold a round-table meeting with top corporate CEOS on Wednesday at the White House to discuss their efforts to meet commitments earlier this year to hire more long-term unemployed workers.
CEOs from companies like Apple, Walmart, Visa and Boeing were among more than 300 companies who agreed in January to step up efforts to target and prepare those workers for openings in their businesses.
Although the unemployment rate has declined to 5.9 percent, long-term joblessness in the U.S. is twice the historic high at 1.9 percent.
“There are still too many people who want to work who haven’t been able to find a job for a long period of time,” Zients said Tuesday.
Zients said many of the long-term unemployed share many of the same traits and skills as workers who have been out of jobs for a shorter period of time but are at a disadvantage simply because they have been jobless for a longer period of time.
“Too often the long-term unemployed haven’t been given a chance to get back in the game,” he said.
The grants range from $3 million to $10 million and went to programs that assist workers in 20 states and Puerto Rico.
In addition, the federal government is issuing guidance to federal agencies to give equal opportunities to potential federal workers who have been out of work for lengthy periods.