LINCOLN, Maine — The 200 millworkers laid off in December from Lincoln Paper & Tissue have been approved to receive job retraining assistance from the federal government.

The company on Dec. 16 filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Labor to request that the 200 affected workers be eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which is a federal program that could provide job retraining, wage subsidies and re-employment services for workers laid off due to foreign competition.

Maine’s congressional delegation on Thursday announced that federal labor officials have certified the petition.

The company announced in early December that it would lay off 200 workers because of an explosion on Nov. 2 that destroyed a recovery boiler in the mill, but in the federal petition the company revealed that the layoffs were also due to the loss of a major customer that was moving its tissue production to Indonesia.

“These layoffs had a major impact on the workers as well as their families and the entire local community. The assistance granted today doesn’t replace the jobs lost, but it does give these workers much needed assistance while they seek new employment. I will continue to do everything I can to support these workers and their community,” Democrat U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said in a statement.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins spoke last week directly with President Barack Obama about the layoffs in Lincoln, according to a news release from her office.

“This assistance will be critical in helping these workers, many of whom have worked at the mill throughout their entire careers, to pursue alternative job opportunities,” Collins and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King said in a joint statement. “We will continue to work together to support the workers, and their families, affected by this layoff to help ensure that they receive the federal assistance and resources they need to move forward.”

Former Lincoln Paper & Tissue workers eligible for the federal assistance should contact their local Career Center for information about how to access the benefits.

Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.