Katahdin millworkers to get emergency aid

Posted June 23, 2011, at 9:58 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine ― About 450 workers laid off in the Main Street paper mill’s closure in April will be the beneficiaries of a $657,841 National Emergency Grant, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Labor is awarding the grant to the Maine Department of Labor to serve workers affected by layoffs at Katahdin Paper Co. LLC mill in East Millinocket. The funding, which will be administered by  Eastern Maine Development Corp., will provide re-employment services to the dislocated workers, said Michaud, a Democrat who lives in East Millinocket.

“These workers are my neighbors, and I know how tough the mill closure has been on them and their families,” said Michaud, who wrote a letter of support for the grant to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in May. “I remain hopeful that we can still find a buyer for the mill and get these workers their jobs back.”

“In the meantime, this funding will help impacted workers plan their next steps and find other work. I continue to be in close contact with the towns of the Katahdin region, and I stand ready to help in any way that I can moving forward,” Michaud said in a statement released Thursday.

Gov. Paul LePage has pledged to help mill owner Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto and Katahdin region leaders find a new owner to revitalize the town mill and its sister mill in Millinocket, which closed in September 2008, idling 150 workers.

Dan Whyte, vice president of Brookfield, which owns the two Katahdin Paper Co. mills, told the Bangor Daily News last week that talks “are in progress” to sell the facilities to International Grand Investors Corp. of Delaware for $1. IGIC owns the former Domtar mill in Baileyville and is among a group of companies owned by Chinese investors in Taiwan.

As of Thursday,  Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said that talks were progressing but had been hampered by a few snags that he hoped would be worked out within a week.

Dislocated Katahdin Paper workers previously were certified for Trade Adjustment Assistance in March, and the funding announced Thursday will provide additional assistance.

According to the application filed by the Maine Department of Labor, the National Emergency Grant is expected to help serve dislocated workers with the full continuum of re-employment services including recruitment, career assessment, case management services, supportive services, job development, job placement, retention and follow-up services, Michaud said.

Workers will receive individualized career assessments and planning services to ensure that all needs are taken into account and that they have effective training and re-employment strategies that lead to full-time stable employment.

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