Federal labor department grants $305,000 to help retrain laid off Maine Military Authority employees

Posted Nov. 04, 2013, at 5:59 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine — The U.S. Department of Labor Monday announced a $305,714 supplement National Emergency Grant for re-employment and training services of workers affected by recent layoffs at the Maine Military Authority.

In late August the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency management announced the layoff of up to 140 people at the military authority effective in October.

A majority of those affected worked at the Limestone facility on the former Loring Air Force Base.

“The Labor Department’s funding will assist these additional workers affected by layoffs from the Maine Military Authority to secure new employment,” acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Eric M. Seleznow said Monday in a press release.

The drawdown of troops and equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan was blamed for the job loss at the authority, which employed 210 people before the August layoffs.

“This is awesome,” Rob Jandreau, director of operations at the Limestone facility, said Monday afternoon after hearing of the funding. “Anytime you have workers laid off, it is not a good thing [and] I am glad they were able to get something for them.”

The National Emergency Grant funds were awarded to the Maine Department of Labor, which, in turn, contracts with the Northern Maine Development Commission to oversee the retraining efforts through the Aroostook County Action Program.

Maine received $463,000 and $100,000 in National Emergency Grant funds in 2011 and 2012, respectively, following a round of layoffs at the military authority in 2011.

“Those funds were scheduled to run out in September,” according to Ryan Pelletier, director of economic and workforce development at NMDC. “Just prior to that we got word of the additional layoffs, so the Department of Labor granted us a one-month extension that gave us time to form a grant plan.”

Pelletier said the newly announced funding will provide educational and skill training along with career counseling for up to 50 of the laid-off workers.

“We know the layoff was much greater,” he said. “But we don’t know how many will enroll in some sort of training [and] if we see a greater need, we can apply for additional funds.”

Those funds are available now through ACAP, Pelletier said.

“We are just very glad we could extend this [funding],” Torry Eaton, ACAP senior manager in charge of employment and training programs, said Monday. “We can help them make some good career decisions.”

Past participants in federally funded retraining programs have gone on to earn college degrees, health care certifications or advanced mechanical certificates, Eaton said.

“Historically, some individuals expand their skills while others go off in new and different directions,” she said.

“These grants are critical to helping workers get back on their feet, and this additional funding is very welcome news,” said Rep. Mike Michaud in a statement released Monday afternoon. “These workers have been through a lot, and I’m hopeful this supplement will open up new training opportunities that will help them find new employment as soon as possible.”

Maine Military Authority repairs and rebuilds military vehicles for the National Guard. It was founded in 1997.

Affected workers can contact ACAP for retraining information at 800-432-7881.

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