HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Today, the Wolf Administration announced the availability of $800,000 to help Pennsylvania veterans find employment. The Veterans Employment Program (VEP) provides awards grants to local organizations that connect veterans to employment resources and family-sustaining jobs. The program was designed to eliminate barriers for Pennsylvania’s roughly 800,000 veterans when searching for job opportunities. 

“Through their service, Pennsylvania’s veterans develop unique skillsets and perspectives that enhance the workforce of every industry in the commonwealth. The Wolf Administration is committed to using VEP grants to connect veterans with employers who offer family-sustaining wages and opportunity for career advancement. Veterans deserve pathways to employment without barriers, and we are eager to continue collaborating with the employer community to make this a reality for the hundreds of thousands of veterans who call Pennsylvania home,” said Jennifer Berrier, Secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I). 

According to L&I, eligible applicants include local workforce development boards, non-profit and non-governmental entities, community-based organizations, education and post-secondary organizations, labor organizations, business associations, and economic development entities.  

With the new investment, officials are looking to expand the program, which was developed two years ago as the result of a collaboration between L&I and the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (DMVA). 

“This grant allows us to bring more services to the public around the Commonwealth,” said Daniel Kuba, the Acting Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development at L&I. “A program like this just makes absolute sense,” he added. 

A veteran himself, Kuba knows how supportive the VEP and other DMVA resources can be for veterans, especially in areas with higher veteran unemployment rates. 

"I'm a product of our own system,” said Kuba. “When I came out of the military, I used my veteran representative at the PA Career Link and he helped me get summer employment while I went to school at Penn State. That summer employment helped me pay the bills because I had to fund my own education with the help of the GI Bill,” Kuba added. 

“This particular grant program is really going to help us connect veterans to opportunities that will address one of the biggest social determinants of health that we see, and that's employment. Our veterans are either unemployed or underemployed, "said Richard Hamp, Special Assistant to the Deputy Adjutant General for Veteran Affairs at DMVA. “Our veterans bring so much back into the community- the drive, the dedication, leadership, enthusiasm. Giving a veteran an opportunity to succeed in a program like this, it's just amazing,” Hamp added. 

According to L&I, successful applicants should identify a problem, or an opportunity related to veterans’ employment and must be capable of bringing together business, education, workforce, community, and other partners to achieve employment support for veterans. 

“We're looking for them as an organization that's structured, has a business plan, and then how it's going to utilize these dollars in providing those services,” said Kuba. “Is it going to be on training, is it going to be on career services, is it going to be on collaborative efforts,” he added. 

Eligible organizations can receive up to $200,000 for innovative projects to explore veteran employment opportunities, close funding gaps or supplement current initiatives. 

For Kuba, being a part of the planning and oversight of the VEP is especially significant.

“Being a vet, you know and understand the trials, tribulations, the issues, the concerns, the mental drain that it takes on you when you transition from military to civilian life. To be part of something that is helping my fellow vets, it just means so much,” said Kuba. “There are people out here to help with support.” 

Applications are due by 4 p.m. on Nov. 21. You can find application details and additional info on L&I’s website, here. 

For more information on the PA Career Link, you can find it here.