BANGOR — The disaster recovery effort in Maine received a boost on Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Labor, which awarded the state an emergency $2 million grant.
The money is earmarked for municipalities and other nonprofit entities to hire people to help in the cleanup effort. Any unemployed person is eligible for these jobs.
Working with the Maine Department of Labor, those public entities will receive money to employ unemployed people to work on different post-storm projects.
“Any public entity can apply for funding to hire unemployed people to help in the disaster recovery effort, such as debris cleanup,” said Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Valerie Landry. “This is the first time this program has been done in Maine.”
The program applies to all counties except Aroostook County, which was not as severely affected by the storm.
Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor Kathryn Higgins visited southern Maine on Wednesday to announce the grant award. The award is authorized under emergency provisions of the federal Job Training Partnership Act to fund special temporary jobs that would benefit the public and help dislocated workers resume regular employment.
The program will assist workers in areas declared eligible for assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Participants will work for up to six months with public or private nonprofit agencies to help with clean-up, repair and restoration efforts.
Landry accompanied Higgins on visits to state employment centers in Portland and Lewiston.
“This will help people earn a paycheck while they help rebuild their communities,” Higgins said in a statement. “They have lost much as a result of the ice storms, but we cannot afford to lose their ability or desire to work.”
The U.S. Department of Labor will grant the Maine Department of Labor a total of $2,052,750 to fund the disaster recovery employment program. An initial amount of $685,000 is being awarded for immediate use.
Municipalities and other nonprofit entities can contact the Maine Department of Labor at 624-6390 to learn more about applying for funding. Any person who is now unemployed is encouraged to call their local Department of Labor employment center for information on jobs.
The federal dislocated worker program is part of a comprehensive federal retraining program to assist workers who have been, or are about to be, laid off for reasons such as natural disaster, technological change, foreign competition or goverment actions.
In a separate effort to help unemployed people, the federal government has committed funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist workers displaced by the storm but not eligible for regular unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor has estimated that there are some 3,500 people in the state who do not qualify for regular benefits but lost work because of the extreme weather. Some of these people include farmers and other self employed workers.
Landry encouraged people to call their local Department of Labor center for more information on storm-related unemployment benefits.