By Bill Kirk
---- — LAWRENCE — Nearly two-dozen local employees laid off when Hostess went belly-up are eligible for job-training grants and other assistance now that th@text1:e federal government has determined that the shutdown of the pastry giant was the result, at least in part, of cheap foreign imports.
The U.S. Department of Labor said 18,000 workers laid off in 48 states from 864 Hostess company locations are eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA. This total includes approximately 1,040 from locations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The former Hostess retail store and distribution warehouse at 647 Andover St. was closed shortly after the company declared bankruptcy in mid-November.
Hundreds like it, as well as bakeries, all over the country were also shut down.
A judge recently ruled that Hostess could begin auctioning its assets, including its iconic brands such as Twinkie, as well as other brands owned by the corporation, including Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs and Dolly Madison.
The TAA certification was based on a Labor Department investigation to determine whether the layoffs met the group eligibility criteria set forth by the Trade Act of 1974. An investigation found that increased imports of baked products contributed to the company’s sales declines and worker separations.
Workers covered by this TAA certification will be contacted by their respective state workforce agencies with instructions on how to apply for individual benefits and services. Those who qualify may receive case management and re-employment services, training in new occupational skills and/or trade readjustment allowances that provide income support for workers enrolled in training. Workers may also receive job search and relocation allowances, and the Health Coverage Tax Credit.
According to Edmund Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the New England region of the U.S. Department of Labor, said low-cost baked goods were being sold by foreign com@text1:panies to grocery chains that were also customers of Hostess. Those sales, he said, undercut the sales of Hostess, leading to the demise of the company.
“The products were baked goods, including bread, buns, rolls, snack cakes, donuts, sweet rolls and similar products,” he said. The TAA investigation found that stores that were customers of Hostess Brands switched to imported baked goods competitive with Hostess products.