Brunswick-based Coastal Counties Workforce, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage and Labor Commissioner John Butera over millions in federal funding they say the state is withholding from them.

“We provide funding for classroom training activities, tuition, customized training, on the job training, work experience … those types of things,” CCWI Executive Director Michael Bourret told The Times Record in September. “We would be unable to do that without these funds.”

Citing a Bangor Daily News story, the Associated Press reports that LePage has told the federal government he will reject money provided through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which sends about $9 million to the state every year. He has called the program wasteful and tried to reorganize the three regional boards that receive the funds into a single statewide body.

The attorney general’s office says it is reviewing the lawsuit. A Labor Department spokeswoman said she could not comment on pending litigation, according to the AP. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is meant to provide job training services. The funding is generally distributed to three workforce boards, including Coastal Counties Workforce, Inc., which oversees the programming along the coast from York to Waldo. According to Bourret, the nonprofit works directly with 1,000 individuals annually, and indirectly with 40,000 annually.

Maine Department of Labor representative Laura Hudson told The Times Record in September that it was “categorically untrue” that the governor had rejected the federal funding. However, a subsequent federal Freedom of Information Act request by the Bangor Daily News revealed that the governor had sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor rejecting the funding. CCWI accuses the administration of “violating federal law by refusing to distribute the WIOA funds as required.”

Without the expected fund- ing, CCWI says that it and the other workforce boards will have to cease operations by Nov. 30.

The lawsuit seeks to force the administration to release the federal funding to the workforce boards immediately.

LePage has attempted to eliminate the three workforce boards in favor of one statewide board, which he claims would be more cost effective. The federal government has rejected that request.

“Although that has a nice ring to it, the reality is that most of the overhead is in Augusta,” Bourret told The Times Record in September. “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.”

“Gov. LePage’s and Commissioner Butera’s actions are particularly harmful to unemployed workers, underemployed workers, and workers who have recently been laid off from paper mills, precision manufacturing firms, and other hard-hit industries across Maine,” said CCWI in a press release. “Moreover, these federal funds not only help Maine’s workers, but directly help Maine’s businesses by providing them with trained employees.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

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