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Montana timber workers may benefit from $1.8 million in Department of Labor national emergency grants for retraining over the next two years.

The tax money will go to the Statewide Workforce Programs and Oversight Bureau in Montana's Department of Labor and Industry.

That agency will pass it on to employment agencies in Lincoln, Flathead, Sanders, Lake, Mineral, Missoula, and Ravalli counties. About 1,700 Montana timber workers lost their jobs in 2009, Tester said. Grant funds will pay for short-term training and education, employment plan development and case management.

This new fund is aimed mainly at 450 laid-off workers with Plum Creek Timber Co. and Smurfit-Stone Container Co., according to a U.S. Department of Labor statement.

For those who've qualified for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance retraining dollars, the grant will provide additional services like dependent care and transportation assistance for those in re-training programs.

"This grant will be a lasting opportunity for Montanans to get the help they need to find good-paying jobs here at home," said Sen. Max Baucus, who appealed for the grant with Sen. Jon Tester. "The closure of the Smurfit-Stone mill and layoffs at other mills were devastating for Montana, and you can bet I'll keep working to ensure folks in our state are on the path toward economic recovery and growth."

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