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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 4, 2001

Press Briefing by Secretary of Labor Chao and Ari Fleischer
Press Briefing by Secretary of Labor Chao and Ari Fleischer - Aboard Air Force One
En Route Orlando, Florida

1:25 P.M. EST

MR. FLEISCHER:  Hello, everybody.  We don't have a lot of time because we're landing, but I just thought it would be a good idea to have the Secretary come back, fill you in a little about the site the President's going to visit and tour today, and see if she can answer any questions about the program.

SECRETARY CHAO:  Right.  You are visiting what's called the one-stop career center.  I even brought all of you a little aid here.  There are about 1,200 one-stop career centers.  They used to be called like unemployment offices.  But in 1998, under the Work Force Investment Act, the Congress changed all these unemployment offices, and they became re-employment offices.  And they're called one-stop career centers because they cluster all of the services that are available to an unemployed person in one place.

So the focus of these offices changed a great deal.  Prior to 1998, you couldn't even call in your jobless claim; you had to go in person.  Well, in 1998, they changed that.  You can call in your jobless claim.  So you've got basically brick and mortar.  What do you do with them?  We made them into, again, a reemployment center.

So a person comes in, it's nice and cheery, there are computers everywhere, there are counselors.  Basically, a person's skills assessment will be taken.  They will be given the latest about the job market.  They will be helped in their job search. They will be given job placement, you know, advice.

They will also be taught how to write a resume, if that's applicable to them.  So this is like a little chart.  And there are lots and lots of services that are available.  This one has just opened, it is funded by the federal government, managed by the state.

And in this particular case, you've got Operation Paycheck, which is an initiative of Governor Bush.  And this emphasis here in this particular center is health care.  So while obviously the attacks of September 11th have devastated our economy and many industry sectors, health care is certainly one sector that is still looking for job seekers.  Intellectual -- information technology is another area that they're still looking for people.

If you are in any of the mortgage banking areas and, of course, if you're in securities, you're definitely going to find jobs.

Q    This center is mostly aimed at placing people within the health care industry?  Is that what you're saying?

SECRETARY CHAO:  That's one of its specialties.  It places people in all sorts of different jobs.  But that's one of the areas.  But again, the Department of Labor, SBA, Agriculture -- the government has a whole host of government programs to help the dislocated.  And so, we want to get the word out.  We want to ask people to not be afraid to access these programs.

Our budget at the Department of Labor is $44.4 billion.  About $40 billion of that goes to unemployment insurance to help the unemployed.  And the remainder is in training.

Q    What will the President's proposal do specifically for this kind of program?

SECRETARY CHAO:  It would have -- basically, this is a new center that is going to be opened.  This is -- and he's also going to be giving a grant.  It's called the National Emergency Grant, which was part of his back to work relief program.  These are national emergency grants he's going to announce -- 3.4 -- I can tell the amount -- it's $3.4 million.  Today, we have several others on a given day basis.  But they're very easy to administer.

Q    How bad is this situation in Central Florida?  Is it one of the worst in the country?

SECRETARY CHAO:  Actually, unemployment rate for the whole state is about 4.9 percent.  That's below the national average.

Q    It's still below the --

MR. FLEISCHER:  The Orlando area has been hit particularly hard with the drop in tourism -- Disney World.

Q    How does that measure up against other areas that are also having unemployment problems?

SECRETARY CHAO:  Obviously, we don't want to -- I mean, we feel for every single person who is out of a job.  But Orlando -- it's -- and New York is terribly hit.  There are other -- some other areas as well.  But overall, the state has been okay.  We don't want to say that --

Q    Is the $3.4 million -- is that for this one center, or it's for the whole state, or what?

SECRETARY CHAO:  I don't have that information.  It's for a specific purpose.  It was for layoffs in the surrounding area.

Now, the state did ask for more.  But we go by what the actual number of workers laid off has been.  So the actual number of workers is about 2,000.  And there is a very simple formula.  We know how much a dislocated worker would need in terms of child care expenses, travel expenses.  So we just do it on a programmatic basis and it comes out to be about $3.4 million -- just for about 2,000 workers.

Q    In the Orlando area, or statewide?

SECRETARY CHAO:  In the Orlando area, yes.

So it's a very nimble instrument, which is why we like it so much as part of the President's back to work relief project.  Because it's well-known, the state departments of labor know how to access it, we know how to access it.  Currently, it's not in the House version.  We're a little disappointed at that, but it's a very good program.

Q    Is this a permanent center?  This -- is this opening as a permanent center?

SECRETARY CHAO:  Yes.  And there are 1,200 of these, so --

MR. FLEISCHER:  All right.  We need to wrap.

SECRETARY CHAO:  I'll leave this here.

Q    When were they originally created, though?  This was the 1998?

SECRETARY CHAO:  Under the Work Force Investment Act of 1998.

Q    How much did the state ask for?

SECRETARY CHAO:  I can't remember.

MR. DICKENS:  We have a fact sheet for you guys.

END  1:30 P.M. EST

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