updated 6/28/2006 4:51:15 PM ET 2006-06-28T20:51:15

The Labor Department is awarding $4 million in grants to religious and community groups to help high school drop outs, people released from prison and others find jobs.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced the grants in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. The money will go to 55 organizations to fund projects in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

The grants will provide unemployed people who face significant hurdles to employment with mentoring, life-skills coaching and other services aimed at helping them find work and succeed in the business world.

Chao said 557 organizations had submitted requests for a slice of the funds. The grants are part of an ongoing effort to help the unemployed find jobs. She said that many grants were for around $75,000 a piece.

The labor secretary called the religious and other groups receiving a slice of the money a “vital link” between the community and the government.

“The grassroots projects funded through this $4 million initiative will reach out to those most in need by providing guidance and support in making use of employment services available through local One-Stop Career Centers,” she said.

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