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LePage Sued for Refusing to Release Federal Funds

Workforce development programs provide Maine businesses with trained employees. (12019/Pixabay)
Workforce development programs provide Maine businesses with trained employees. (12019/Pixabay)
October 27, 2017

BUSHWICK, Maine – A nonprofit that trains unemployed and underemployed workers is suing Gov. LePage for withholding federal funds. This summer the U.S. Department of Labor made more than $8 million available to help Maine workers improve their skills and re-enter the job market.

But the LePage administration offered to provide less than a quarter of that money to the workforce development boards that administer the training. And now the administration says reimbursement for expenses will end on November 30.

Antoinette Mancusi, the deputy director of the Coastal Counties Workforce, says this will deprive thousands of workers of services to which they're entitled.

"If the funds are turned away, Coastal Counties Workforce Inc., the local workforce board here in this coastal county region, will shut down, and so will the other two workforce boards," she warned.

CCWI believes withholding the funds is also a violation of federal law. LePage insists having three regional boards in the state is wasteful and has sought to consolidate them into a single office in Augusta.

But according to Mancusi, under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the state is required to have regional boards, and splitting the work up just makes sense.

"Maine is geographically vast and our local economies are very different," she explains. "So on a practical level, I just don't see how one office in Augusta could run such a large system in such a large state."

She adds that having three regional boards makes it possible to work closely with local businesses to create appropriate workforce development programs.

Mancusi points out that in the six counties her organization serves, more than 50,000 workers visit their career and workforce solutions centers every year.

"On another level, the more intense level, we serve approximately 1,000 workers in our region alone with very direct training services," she notes.

The lawsuit, filed in federal District Court on Tuesday, includes a request for immediate distribution of the federal funds.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME