Gov. Paul LePage ... administration’s actions are an attempt to cut bureaucracy and get more funding directly into job training

Gov. Paul LePage … administration’s actions are an attempt to cut bureaucracy and get more funding directly into job training

BRUNSWICK

Coastal Counties Workforce Inc. is speaking out against a recent decision by Gov. Paul LePage to withhold more than $8 million in federal funding for job training programs.

“It’s not good for us. We rely on those funds to do our work,” said CCWI Executive Director Michael Bourret.

The Bangor Daily News reported LePage’s plan late last week.

The federal funding would have gone to the state’s three regional workforce boards — CCWI being one — that direct funding for job training activities, helping to better prepare Mainers for the labor market.

CCWI, based in Brunswick, oversees labor force training along the coast from York to Waldo, partnering with local organizations such as Midcoast Council of Governments, Coastal Enterprises Inc., Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and the Southern Midcoast Career- Center. Bourret said they work directly with 1,000 individuals annually, and factoring in those who use their resources or benefit in other ways from their services, he estimates CCWI helps more than 40,000 per year.

“We provide funding for classroom training activities, tuition, customized training, on the job training, work experience … those types of things,” said Bourret. “We would be unable to do that without these funds.”

Maine Department of Labor representative Laura Hudson characterized the administration’s actions as an attempt to cut bureaucracy and get more of the federal funding directly into job training.

She also claimed that any report that the governor had rejected the $8 million was “categorically untrue.” Hudson did not respond to a request for clarification as to whether or not the state workforce boards would receive their allocated funding.

“The governor has been interested in consolidating the three workforce boards into one and running things at the state level,” Bourret said. “The rationale that we got on that was so that the system could be more efficient and more money could go from bureaucracy to training.

“Although that has a nice ring to it, the reality is that most of the overhead is in Augusta,” Bourret said. “Twenty-five percent of the money, or nearly 25 percent, is taken off the top by the state. We get about 7.6 percent of each of the awards for our own overhead — which is pretty small.”

Moreover, the federal funding allows the boards to pursue outside grants and funding to put into job programs.

“Since 2000 … we’ve managed about $77 million, and about $33 million of that is money we brought in over the annual allocation,” said Bourret.

With the current federal award up in the air, Bourret is concerned about how long the nonprofit’s current services can continue.

“I would say that the local workforce boards are in a position that as we get into late fall and the winter, we’re going to run out of the training money,” he said. “This could put agencies that receive contracts from us, as well as us, in jeopardy as quickly as November/December.

“If you take us out of the picture, I think

the workforce skills issue that we all hear about is going to become worse,” he said.

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, called for the governor to release the funding.

“These federal funds are specifically devoted to ensuring access to robust and relevant training programs that result in lifelong skills and credentials matched to in-demand jobs — exactly what Mainers and employers need,” she said. “The decision to forfeit these dollars is reckless and harmful to Maine’s people and Maine’s economy. I urge Gov. LePage and his administration to reconsider their decision.”

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