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Local Nonprofits Offer Job Placement Help for Hurricane Maria Victims

Hundreds of Puerto Ricans are coming to Northeast Ohio to escape the wreckage of Hurricane Maria, and thousands more are expected to arrive over the coming months. To help them get settled, some local organizations have begun the process of trying to connect them with jobs.

Local nonprofits like the Spanish American Committee and the El Barrio Work Development Center are working directly with new arrivals from Puerto Rico to find job placements, while the Hispanic Business Center (HBC) in the city's Clark-Fulton neighborhood is reaching out to employers.

"I was able to place one of my relatives in a coffee shop that's one of our business clients," said Jenice Contreras, HBC's Executive Director. Many of those coming here are bringing education and experience, she said, so they are well-prepared to enter the workforce. However, the level of English proficiency varies widely.

"You go from having folks who are monolingual, who don't have any English skills, to folks who are highly-technically proficient in English," she said. Regardless, Contreras said she hopes employers, and Clevelanders in general, make an effort to welcome new arrivals. "You know, give them a little warmth of Puerto Rico here in Cleveland."

According to Jennifer Hinjosa, a researcher at The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at New York's Hunter College, nearly 30,000 Puerto Ricans are expected to move to Ohio over the next couple years. About two-thirds of them are expected to be adults between 18- and 65-years-old.

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