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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Grants totaling $8.5 million provide help to former Canton paper mill workers

The federal government has given a $7.5 million grant to help the 1,100 workers who lost their jobs when the Pactiv Evergreen paper mill shut down in Canton earlier this month.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that $2.5 million will be made available immediately, with the remainder to be distributed to support workforce development efforts in the weeks and months to come.

“This grant will provide new resources for our continuing effort to support people in the region around Canton who are dealing with the devastating impact of the paper mill’s closure,” says Cooper in a statement. “Working with local partners on the ground, we will keep bringing services to the affected workers to help them find new job opportunities and pivot to new careers with workforce training.”

Evergreen Packaging_Canton
Pactiv Evergreen shut down its paper mill in Canton in June.

Pactiv Evergreen announced plans in March to shut the paper mill in Canton and reduce operations at its facility in nearby Waynesville. Almost 1,100 people lost their jobs as a result, with most of the layoffs occurring on June 9. The Canton mill had been operating for more than a century and was the largest employer in Haywood County, which has about 62,000 residents.

Its closure is expected to also deliver an economic blow to companies that serve the paper mill, from transportation companies to the forestry industry, grocery stores, health care providers and other small businesses that have served Evergreen employees.

“Our Workforce Solutions team and our local NCWorks partners have made it a priority to respond to these layoffs in a coordinated, compassionate way,” says N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “With this new grant from our federal partners and other available resources, we will continue helping talented workers to gain new skills and connect with employers who are hiring.”

Through the grant, eligible dislocated workers may receive:

  • Career services, to help workers make plans about jobs and education, based on area economic conditions;
  • Training services, including on-the-job training or other work-based learning opportunities with area employers, entrepreneurship training, and occupational skills training at community colleges or other providers, to prepare for in-demand careers; and
  • Supportive services, which can address barriers that may prevent individuals from participating in employment and training.  

The state will partner with Southwestern Workforce Development Board (which serves Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties) and Mountain Area Workforce Development Board (which serves Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties) to administer the grant, which is intended to serve approximately 885 people in the region.

Since the layoff announcement, the state’s Rapid Response program and local workforce boards have assisted impacted workers through job fairs and hiring events in the region. NCWorks Career Centers — primarily the center in Haywood County — are already providing employment services to affected Evergreen employees, including career counseling, job search help (including resume assistance), tuition assistance for training, and veterans services.

“I appreciate Gov. Cooper and everyone involved from D.C. to Raleigh in helping bring this grant to our community,” Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers stated in a release. “This grant will give these workers the resources they need to chart their own path and their future. These people and their families deserve respect, and every opportunity to pursue their dreams after this nightmare closing of Pactiv Evergreen, which has damaged not only our economy but our soul.”

Dogwood Health Trust announced earlier this month it was providing a $1 million grant to the United Way of Haywood County to support the Canton Mill Closure Emergency Response Project. The money will provide financial assistance to individuals in need as a result of the Pactiv Evergreen closure, according to an EdNC report. EdNC’s work is also supported by Dogwood Health Trust.

Dogwood Health Trust began in May 2018 after HCA Healthcare acquired Asheville-based Mission Health for $1.5 billion.

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