As many as 18,000 Hostess Brands workers nationally, including those who lost jobs when the Dolly Madison plant on National Road closed in Columbus last year, are now eligible for extra unemployment benefits and special federal retraining programs, officials said Friday.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development said a federal labor ruling this week means the ex-Hostess workers now are eligible for extra benefits under a foreign trade adjustment program designed to help people who lose jobs to overseas competitors.
During the past decade, low sugar prices have helped fuel foreign imports of cake products into the U.S., which the government says contributed to Hostess’ demise.
Hostess, which owned iconic brands such as Twinkies and Wonder Bread, filed for bankruptcy last year, and its owners are auctioning off plants, brands and equipment in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York state.
Bread maker Flowers Foods Inc., of Thomasville, Ga., has bid $390 million for a portion of Hostess’ plants and other assets, including the shuttered facility on National Road.
Larry Duncan, a union business agent with Local 132 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union, said the new trade adjustment ruling will create access for workers to a wide array of benefits.
Those perks include career counseling, training classes, some extended unemployment benefits and pay supplements for many workers older than 50.
That program, known as Re-employment Trade Adjustment Assistance, offers the option of a wage subsidy to people over 50 who take new jobs at a reduced salary compared to what they made at their old workplace.
The wage supplement is capped at a maximum of $10,000 over two years, Duncan said.
The union business agent said he’s working with labor department officials to set up informational sessions for ex-Dolly Madison workers in the Columbus area starting early next month.
Other possible benefits include getting reimbursed for the cost of job searches outside the local area, Duncan said, and in some cases relocation allowances may be paid to people who move to a new city to land work.
The Columbus Dolly Madison plant made a variety of brand-name snack cakes, doughnuts, sweet rolls and similar products until it was closed in mid-November.
Other information can be found at the state labor department’s jobs website, www.workoneworks.com.
Duncan said the new ruling is a big help.
“It means some people will get help going back to college, or they can draw unemployment for two years, or others may get some assistance for relocation to take a new job,” he said.