Governor Rejects Federal Funds Used for Workforce Development

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) Governor LePage has declined millions of dollars in federal workforce development funding for the state.

Workforce Development officials say the funding is critical to career-oriented education and training services that thousands of people across the state receive each year.

The Maine Department of Labor sent letters to the state's three Workforce Development Boards Monday, informing them they would no longer be receiving federal funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

WIOA provides close to nine million dollars used to fund services such as job training, career counseling and education through local career centers.

Jon Farley, Vice President of Economic & Workforce Development at Eastern Maine Workforce Development (EMDC) says, "Availability of these types of services is critical for many individuals in order to either enter or get back into the workforce into a job that pays them a living wage."

The Governor's move comes after his request to the U.S. Department of Labor to combine the three workforce development boards serving different geographical locations into one statewide board was rejected, twice.

The Maine Department of Labor released a statement saying in part:

"Governor LePage's goal has alway been to reduce the size and scope of government. It's why we support alternative funding methods with only one layer of administrative costs, allowing the money to be redirected to intended purposes."

But the local boards disagree with the proposed consolidation.

Michael Aube, President of EMDC says, "That's the way the federal law is. If there are local boards made up of private sector businesses and institutions, they kind of set the strategy for that region. It's not meant to be a cookie-cutter approach. Our needs in Piscatiquis, Hancock, Northern Penobscot County are very different than Brunswick, Sagadahoc and York County."

Coastal Counties Workforce Inc. which works with a Workforce Development Board for six coastal Maine counties has filed a lawsuit against the Governor saying he's violating federal law.

The Governor's office says they can't comment on pending litigation.

EMDC, which works with the Northeastern Workforce Development Board, say their focus is on their clients and working them through the transition and changes this brings.

Aube says, "We've chosen to be more collaborative. We understand the goal that the Governor has. The question is, why can't we achieve that goal together?"

According to the Maine Department of Labor, funds will be terminated by October 31st unless an agreement can be reached.