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Five Hired By Norwalk Firms With State Assistance

NORWALK, Conn. – Five people are working at Norwalk companies thanks to a new Connecticut employment and job training program, according to a statement from two legislators.

The Subsidized Training and Employment Program, also known as STEP-Up, passed as part of last October's comprehensive Jobs Bill, has been a success, State Sen. Bob Duff (D-District 25) and State Rep. Larry Cafero (R-District 142).

Administered by the state Department of Labor and the Connecticut's five Workforce Investment Boards, the program provides $20 million in wage reimbursements and training grants to small businesses and manufacturers with fewer than 100 employees, the statement said.

As of the last week of September, 297 employers across Connecticut have hired 699 employees through the program, the lawmakers say. In the area served by The WorkPlace workforce investment board (Bridgeport and surrounding towns), 87 employees have been hired at 46 companies. In Norwalk, three companies have hired five employees with wages ranging from $11 to $30 an hour.

One of those businesses is SoNo Marketplace in South Norwalk. "It's a phenomenal program," the statement quotes owner John Palino, as saying. Palino used STEP-Up to hire a general manager. "We're a company that is building a market with 49 vendors, and I've introduced this program to my vendors as well – and one of them just got a grant. STEP-Up is really, really looking outside the box, looking at newer, smarter ways to get people back to work and to help companies take on more staff when they might otherwise have had to cut back."

Penmar Industries , a packaging, tape and label manufacturer located at 1 Bates Court in South Norwalk, has also benefited from the program, the statement says. "There's very little help that small businesses are getting, so this is a welcome relief, especially with an aging workforce," said Penmar president Ed Rodriguez. This is almost a gift. It gives us an opportunity to find someone to fit in with our business and our culture."

The wage program provides a subsidy to businesses for new hires of up to $20 per hour, reimbursable up to a maximum of $12,000 (excluding benefits), over a 180 day period, the statement said. The subsidy pays for 100 percent of the new employee's salary in the first month, 75 percent in the second and third months, 50 percent in the fourth and fifth months, and 25 percent in the final, sixth month.

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