Maine’s Coastal Enterprises Inc. has been awarded an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Services to support a revolving loan fund that will finance expanding businesses and provide workforce technical assistance to rural businesses in Maine’s “rim counties.”

The counties are: Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Aroostook and Washington.

CEI said in a news release that those regions continue to experience economic distress, impacting the welfare of families, businesses and communities alike. The poverty rate for the seven-county area is 17.1 percent, compared to 13.6 percent for the state and 15.4 percent for the nation, according to CEI, and the unemployment rate for the region remains significantly higher than that of the rest of Maine.

CEI said it is targeting investments of the federal funds in two of Maine’s most important job-generating industries: innovative wood products and nature-based tourism businesses.

To qualify for loans from the fund, businesses must be creating full-time jobs with the majority targeted to low-income employees. The average annual wage for the new jobs must be at least $20,000. CEI also plans to dedicate a limited amount of funding for job-specific training resources to support workers entering new jobs. Those interested can call CEI at 882-7552 or visit ceimaine.org.


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