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January 5, 2018

Judge orders LePage to release $3M in job training funds

Courtesy / Coastal Counties Workforce Inc.
Courtesy / Coastal Counties Workforce Inc.
Michael Bourret, left, is executive director of Coastal Counties Workforce Inc., and Antoinette Mancusi is its deputy director. The nonprofit based in Brunswick has filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage and Labor Commissioner John Butera for refusing to release $8 million in federal funds allocated for workforce development and training services in 2017. A federal judge on Wednesday ordered LePage to release $3 million in job training funds to the Brunswick-based nonprofit that oversees workforce development programs in six coastal counties.

A federal judge has ordered Gov. Paul LePage to release about $3 million in federal job training funds to Coastal Counties Workforce Inc., a nonprofit based in Brunswick that oversees workforce development programs for six coastal counties in Maine.

One of three workforce development boards in Maine, Coastal Counties filed a federal lawsuit in October against LePage and Labor Commissioner John Butera for refusing to release $8 million in federal funds allocated for workforce development and training services in 2017. Without those funds, Coastal Counties stated in its lawsuit that it would be forced to cease operations, leaving thousands of job seekers without training and workforce development services they needed to reenter the workforce.

Maine Public reported that a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the state didn't have the power to withhold the funds and that Coastal Counties could suffer "irreparable harm" without them.

A spokesperson for Gov. LePage declined to comment on whether the state would appeal the ruling, telling Maine Public she couldn't comment on ongoing litigation.

in 2016, Coastal Counties helped 564 workers obtain employment at an average annual wage of $29,456, according to the lawsuit, and currently has 908 workers enrolled in intensive services or training.

Maine Public reported that the state and Coastal Counties have about a week to work out details of how the $3 million would be released to the organization.

"They knew that this was urgent for us, that Coastal Counties is going to out of business if it doesn't get this money," Coastal Counties' lawyer Kelly McDonald told Maine Public. "And this was a huge amount of work on the part of the court. We're appreciative of the result."

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