NewsPasco County


Job training program help those affected by Hurricane Irma

Now available in Pasco and Hernando counties
Posted at 4:15 PM, Jan 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-25 17:12:47-05

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Sandra Stephenson was a flight attendant until she got laid off. She’s been looking for a new career for more than a decade.

“Jobs have been pretty slim unless you are in the medical field around here,” Sandra said.

Sandra gets retirement benefits, but says it’s just not enough to live on.

“It’s not easy. Every little bit counts. You just really watch your pennies,” she said.

But now she’s getting new job experience she hopes will lead to something permanent. 

Eckerd Connects Workforce Development is using a federal grant to get people like Sandra back to work.

This program gives jobs to people who have experienced long term unemployment or lost a job because of Hurricane Irma.

“They are gaining some additional work experience. Filling in gaps on their resume. And then they’ll continue to be served under our program until they gain permanent employment,” said Eckerd Connects program manager Rachael Ginnick.

The jobs they are helping others in the community still recovering from Irma.

In Sandra’s case, she’s training with the Volunteer Way, a food bank in Pasco County.

“There’s a lot of people out there hurting right now that really could use the extra food and everything. And so I just love helping,” Sandra said. 

The Florida Labor Department says the state lost 127,000 jobs in September after Irma came through. Many of those job losses were temporary, but for some it was permanent. 

Those getting back to work through this program will make at least $13 an hour.

For Sandra, it just might be the boost she needs to start a new chapter.

“Really I’m open to work anywhere,” she said

Eligibility for the program is based on the following:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. citizen
  • Reside in Pasco or Hernando County
  • Been laid off
  • Lost employment due to Hurricane Irma
  • Exhausted unemployment benefits

 To learn more about the Disaster Dislocated Worker Grant program go to

To apply for the program, contact Mary Louise Foy at (352) 667-3590 or via email at