WILTON — Patty Ladd, a manager at the Wilton CareerCenter and the Rumford satellite office, helps adult job seekers find opportunities for training, skill upgrades and disadvantaged workers.

She is among 14 employees of Western Maine Community Action who work at CareerCenters in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties who received conditional layoff notices on Oct. 1, effective Oct. 31. Four employees serve the Wilton and Rumford offices, eight serve the Lewiston office and two work at the South Paris office.

The layoffs are connected to Gov. Paul LePage’s rejection of more than $9 million from the U.S. Department of Labor under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, from which Western Maine Community Action receives money.

“The governor sought an alternative way of funding the WIOA Title 1B program in Maine,” Laura Hudson, communication director for the Maine Department of Labor, wrote in an email. “Although he specifically requested the funding not be sent to the Maine Department of Labor, he was open to having the funding go directly to the workforce boards at the time the letter was written. Subsequent discussions with (U.S. Department of Labor) indicated that federal officials believe the federal law does not authorize (the federal department) to bypass the state. The goal of the governor was to eliminate a duplicative layer of administration and put more money into job training.”

Maine Department of Labor employees who work at the Wilton center did not receive layoff notices, according to Hudson.

The Community Action agency provides a variety of services, including career counseling, case management, training and some support services such as child care at centers.

They work with businesses that share the skills needed for a job and try to match those needed skills to someone seeking a job either through the agency or through partner resources, Ladd said.

The CareerCenter is made up of many programs that share space in the buildings.

“We partner with the Bureau of Employment Services, Bureau of Rehabilitation (Services), and bureau of taxation,” Ladd said, the latter being a reference to Maine Revenue Services.

There are three workforce development boards in the state, and it has been reported the governor wants one board.

Maine’s goal remains reforming this federal system to eliminate 10 percent of funds paying for an extra layer of administration and to put more money into skill development that will lead people to high-paying careers, Hudson wrote. Related to that, the 2018 budget for this funding suggests a 40 percent cut. These actions now are meant to attempt to reform the system before these potential cuts, she wrote.

“Most states our size (less than 1 million in its workforce) operate the way our governor is proposing we operate. We continue to try to get to yes with the U.S. DOL so that these funds can stay in Maine,” she wrote.

However, there is concern locally that if the state does not have the partners to share costs of the CareerCenter buildings, they will be closed and people will have to travel farther to get assistance.

“We all share costs of the building,” Ladd said.

The Community Action agency shares the cost of the four centers, including 40 percent of the Wilton center and 100 percent of the Rumford space, and it pays for eight staff spaces, half of the information center and other costs associated with the Lewiston center, said James Trundy, the agency’s program manager for employment training program.

The agency has a freeze on enrollments and spending for customers.

“In anticipation of not having funding, we advised our customers this summer that we could do some payments for training activities but that we may not be able to pay support service costs such as travel or child care,” Trundy said.

“We have no plans to close the CareerCenter at this time,” Hudson said. “We may, however, try to adjust space and schedule to accommodate the lost capacity after Western Maine Community Action moves out. That remains to be seen,” Hudson wrote. “It is our intention and plan to continue providing services in western Maine.”

Trundy said they not only provide services at the centers, but also work with adult education and subsidize some training.

The Wilton center serves an average of about 25 people per day. Some people need more help than others, said Pat Morse, who also works for Community Action.

“Some people come in with a scowl and leave with a smile. We’re here to help them, and we do,” Morse said.

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