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Norfolk Southern said Tuesday that it has furloughed about 130 locomotive shop employees in Roanoke.

A slate of new career services will be available to employees affected by layoffs at Norfolk Southern, General Electric and FreightCar America.

Virginia Career Works Blue Ridge has partnered with Roanoke to assist the displaced workers. A news release outlined the services:

  • Emergency stability funds to help people at risk of eviction or with other urgent needs such as food or transportation
  • Career counseling and training assistance, which could include paying to train for a job in a new field
  • Small business development support, such as access to mentors or seed money for people who want to start their own business
  • Financial counseling and education

More details about the services will be presented at an informational session at 5 p.m. Monday at the Jefferson Center, 541 Luck Ave. S.W.

Morgan Romeo, executive director of Virginia Career Works Blue Ridge, said the program is supported by a $125,000 grant from the Norfolk Southern Foundation that she hopes to stretch over two years. Romeo said the grant demonstrates the railroad’s commitment to the Roanoke Valley.

“While they’ve had to make difficult business decisions, they also want to show support for the community and assist those individuals in remaining in this community,” she said.

Although the program was aimed at helping former employees of Norfolk Southern, General Electric and FreightCar America, Romeo said others could also be eligible.

“We’re targeting those because we know those were such large events that have drastically affected the citizens of the Roanoke Valley and the neighboring jurisdictions,” she said.

Many of the programs Romeo’s agency currently offers are funded with federal, state or local dollars and come with various regulations attached. She said this grant will allow for more flexibility and extended support services.

These new offerings were announced one day after Norfolk Southern notified employees of a new round of furloughs. The railroad said fewer than 70 employees would be affected this time.

In 2018, General Electric announced it would shut down its manufacturing operations in Salem the following year. In November it was reported that more than 200 hourly employees had been laid off since the announcement.

FreightCar America closed its Roanoke factory last fall, resulting in 200 people losing their jobs.

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Casey Fabris covers business for The Roanoke Times, where she has been a reporter since 2015. Previously, Casey covered Franklin County.

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