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|Struggling to Fill Jobs, U.S. Employers Look to Storm-Battered Puerto Rico|
Faced with worker shortages, employers are trying to lure Puerto Rico residents to the mainland with the promise of jobs for many on the island devastated by Hurricane Maria.
The Department of Corrections in South Carolina began billboard advertisements in Puerto Rico to hire correctional officers, noting “Relocation Assistance Available.” The department has more than 650 such openings. Director Bryan Stirling is hoping to lure candidates with the promise of decent pay—$35,000 a year, plus overtime—and benefits.
Bayada Home Health Care, which struggles to fill in-home care positions in 22 states, also set its sights on the island, which has a bounty of health-care workers and an economy reeling from recession. Since Bayada began running Facebook ads in December targeting Puerto Ricans on the island, nearly 700 have responded, a rate triple the average for the company’s recruitment drives, said Carolina Lobo, chief marketing officer at the company.
“The response was so overwhelming that we had to stop the social marketing,” she said.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at a 17-year low of 4.1%, employers are straining to hire everyone from carpenters to engineers. But in Puerto Rico, where the unemployment rate is 10.8%, many businesses remain closed due to lack of electricity or have trimmed workforces because of depleted demand. So workers are seeking opportunity elsewhere.
For employers in Branson, Mo.—a tourist destination in a county with a 3.8% jobless rate—Puerto Ricans present an appealing labor source because, as U.S. citizens, they don’t need work visas that are in short supply. Last year, even before the hurricane, recruiters traveled to the island several times searching for hospitality workers, industrial welders and nurses, among other occupations. Branson-area businesses hired more than 200 Puerto Ricans.
Recruiters from Missouri are planning to visit again in February and launch a print and radio ad campaign, said Heather Hardinger, who works with the Taney County Partnership, an economic-development organization based in Branson. “We’re expecting a greater response than we had earlier,” she said, in part because of the island’s worsening economic woes.
Recruiting employees in Puerto Rico isn’t new. U.S. mainland companies have long hunted for prospects there, from factory workers to engineers, said Joaquin Torres, past president of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida. But he said that the combination of historically low unemployment on the mainland and deepening crisis in Puerto Rico have intensified the push.
The exodus to the mainland appears to be gaining steam in the aftermath of Maria. In Florida, the Office of Economic and Demographic Research projects that more than 53,000 Puerto Ricans will permanently settle in the state as a result of the hurricane.
Widalis Otero, a 39-year-old teacher from Isabela, P.R., moved in October with her husband and four children to Orlando, Fla., after tiring of living conditions on the island. At a resource center set up in the airport for Puerto Rican newcomers, she visited the table for Orange County Public Schools to ask about enrolling her children. When staffers learned she was a teacher, they urged her to apply for a position.
The district, in a county with a 3.1% unemployment rate, stepped up recruitment efforts in Puerto Rico after the storm. It has since hired 50 teachers and 27 employees in areas like food service and secretarial work, said Bridget Williams, chief of staff at the school system.
In December, Ms. Otero began a job at Innovation Middle School as a paraprofessional working with English-language learners. Once she gathers the necessary documentation, she said she plans to apply for a teaching position. “I really like it here,” she said.
Aveluz Costello, a 26-year-old hotel worker, left San Juan in October after she was recruited by the Nantucket Hotel and Resort in Massachusetts. She said she worried about her mother’s financial situation and could barely help her earning just $7.25 an hour in Puerto Rico. The Nantucket job pays more than twice that and provides housing and airline tickets home to visit.
“It happened right at the time when I needed it.” Ms. Costello said.
Mark Snider, owner of the hotel, said the U.S. visa program for temporary workers is erratic. He brought on a half-dozen Puerto Ricans after the storm and plans to hire more in February.
Bayada, the home health-care company, shrank its pool of nearly 700 respondents to about 160 people and sent 15 staffers last weekend to San Juan, P.R. to interview them. The company made offers to 26 of them for positions in Minneapolis, where the metropolitan area has an unemployment rate of 2.4%.
“Assuming we get results and this catches, I will want to quickly replicate the approach to fill needs in other parts of the country,” said David Baiada, the company’s chief executive.
Write to Arian Campo-Flores at email@example.com
|Death of ‘Storm Chasers’ star under review in Puerto Rico|
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DEATH OF ‘STORM CHASERS’ STAR UNDER REVIEW IN PUERTO RICO
The 38-year-old was found unresponsive on the Harmony of the Seas during a seven-day trip that started in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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Cincinnati Enquirer Published 1:11 p.m. ET Jan. 26, 2018
Joel Taylor starred on the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers.”(Photo: Agencia Reforma)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Authorities in Puerto Rico are trying to determine the cause of death of a reality TV star found on board a cruise ship during a stop in the U.S. island territory.
Joel Taylor starred on the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers.” The 38-year-old was found unresponsive on the Harmony of the Seas during a seven-day trip that started in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Puerto Rico coroner spokeswoman Karixia Ortiz said Friday that the cause of death has not been determined. An autopsy was done earlier but officials are awaiting toxicology results.
She said there were no signs of violence when he was found by a travel companion Tuesday.
Discovery said Taylor would be remembered as an “incredible meteorologist” and a key member of the team that chased tornadoes in the show.
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|The Epistemic Quandary of the FBI and Trump – The Atlantic|
|Today’s Headlines and Commentary|
In an Oval Office meeting shortly after the firing former FBI Director James Comey last May, President Trump asked Andrew McCabe, then the acting FBI director, how he voted in the 2016 election, the Washington Post reports. Trump also reportedly expressed concerns to McCabe about the acting directors politics. Since around the time he took the reins of the bureau, McCabe has been a recurring target of the presidents anger, stemming in part from McCabes commitment to protecting the independence of the special counsel investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians and obstruction of justice.
FBI director Christopher Wray has selected a new chief of staff and general counsel for the bureau, the Washington Post reports. The staffing changeswhich replace two senior aides to Wrays predecessor, James Comeycome after a period of concerted political pressure on Wray from both the attorney general and the president, who want Wray to replace the senior civil servants who worked under Comey. Wray selected Dana Boentethe U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and head of the national security division at the Justice Departmentas the FBIs new general counsel and Zachary Harmona former colleague of Wrays from King & Spalding, a law firmto replace Wrays current chief of staff, Jim Rybicki.
Members of Special Counsel Robert Muellers team have interviewed CIA director Mike Pompeo, NBC News reports. Pompeo joins the list of other senior Trump administration officials who have met with Justice Department investigators. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the special counsels team had interviewed James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In the coming weeks, the special counsel seeks to question the president about Trumps decisions to fire James Comey and request the resignation of Michael Flynn, the Washington Post reports. The investigations scrutiny of these decisions suggests that it seeks to examine all possible attempts to interfere with the investigation into possible Russian collusion with elements of the Trump campaign. The presidents lawyers have drafted negotiating terms for the presidents interview with the special counsel, which could receive these terms as early as next week.
Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, CIA director Mike Pompeo stated that the agency now has a better understanding of North Koreas programs to build nuclear missiles that can hit specific targets within the U.S., though Pompeo qualified that gaps in this understanding remain, the Washington Post reports. Pompeo praised his agencys efforts to gather intelligence about North Koreas nuclear programs and lamented what he characterized as insufficient attention to Pyongyang under previous administrations. The director chose his words judiciously, however, and never explicitly assigned blame for the gaps in CIA knowledge of North Korean programs that persist. During his speech, Pompeo also reiterated that Pyongyang is but a few months away from being able to develop reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles. He added that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is unlikely to stop at the production of a single missile. Rather, Kim is more likely to develop a nuclear arsenal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to widen Turkeys offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria from Afrin to Manbij, the Washington Post reports. The decision will bring Turkish forces and their Syrian allies closer to U.S. troops in Syria, who are there to support the Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State. Senior U.S. officials such as Defense Secretary James Mattis worry that the Turkish offensive will wreak havoc in one of the few stable areas left in Syria, the north, and distract from ongoing operations aimed at destroying ISIS.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared on Tuesday that he holds Russia accountable for an alleged chemical weapons attack carried out by Syrian government forces in Damascus on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reports. Tillerson continued, stating that Russias failure to prevent this chemical strike calls into question Russias ability to participate in efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. According to the secretary, more than 20 civiliansincluding many childrenbecame sick after the alleged chlorine-gas attack. The tragedy is only the latest incident in which Bashar al-Assads military has used chemical weapons on its own people. The attack came on the eve of planned U.N.-backed Syrian peace negotiations.