Finding a job when you don’t have a job is tough. And it’s going to get even tougher, thanks to Gov. Le-Page’s meddlesome and uninformed decision to reject millions of dollars in federal workforce training funds.

At issue are three business-led regional workforce development boards, in Bangor, Brunswick and Lewiston, which administer over $8 million a year in federal funds for job search assistance, career counseling, and classroom and on-the-job training. The money helps support Maine’s 12 regional career centers as well.

LePage pulled out of the program after federal officials rejected his proposal to reorganize it, prompting one of the boards – Coastal Counties Workforce, Inc. in Brunswick – to file suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court, asking the court to compel the state to make the money available. (Although the lawsuit doesn’t include the other two nonprofits, it would ideally result in funds being released to all three, Coastal Counties’ attorney told the Bangor Daily News.)

Although LePage and his administration disparage the current three-board system as wasteful and inefficient, the facts tell a different story. Of the $9.4 million in federal workforce training funds that Maine received for fiscal 2017, the Maine Department of Labor retained about 25 percent to pay for overhead and other activities that don’t help people who live here.

The regional boards, on the other hand, spent less than 8 percent on administrative costs – and not only covered direct job training to over 2,200 young, low-income and laid-off Mainers, but also provided nearly 50,000 people with support services, such as resume-writing assistance, transportation and child care. And the boards use the federal money to draw down additional grants, compounding the reach of that funding.

We wonder why accountability seems to be an issue only when it pertains to services for the needy. State officials have put up hurdle after hurdle to accessing another federally funded program – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or food stamps – but recently brushed off calls for data on whether Pine Tree Development Zones create enough jobs to be worth the $12 million in tax breaks handed out each year under the program.

Maine isn’t spending any of its own money on federal workforce development. All of the money is from the U.S. government, and all we do is pass it along to those who need it – and if LePage’s refusal to accept it doesn’t get prompt and unambiguous pushback from Washington, the cost could be far higher than any of the fiscal savings that the governor imagines.


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