Senate blocks consideration of Chipman bill to grow workforce development programs for New Mainers

Posted: May 24, 2017 | Senator Chipman

The Maine Senate on Tuesday voted to kill a bill to help new Mainers enter the workforce, rejecting the legislation before it was even allowed to work through the legislative process.

The bill — LD 1412, An Act To Increase Access to Workforce Development Programs for New Maine Residents — would establish the Immigrant Workforce Development Fund. The fund would provide competitive grants to ethnicity-based community organizations to fund programs and services to help legal immigrants and refugees become economically self-sufficient.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee recommended the Legislature refer the bill to the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee for further consideration. Instead, Republicans in the Maine Senate used their majority to kill the bill.

“I am disappointed in the Senate’s actions today,” said Sen. Chipman. “There are already jobs across the state that we simply can’t fill with our current labor force. That’s only going to get worse over the coming years. We know we have immigrants who are willing to work and just need a little more training to be able to do so. We should get them that training as soon as we can.”

Ethnicity-based community organizations “collectively provide a range of culturally and linguistically specialized services for the State’s refugee/immigrant/asylum seeker populations,” said Fatuma Hussein, the executive director for the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, at a recent public hearing on the bill. “The Immigrant Workforce Development Fund would allow us to serve more people — putting more people on the path to self-sufficiency and economic independence.”

Getting more new Mainers into workforce training is not only good for the individual new Mainers themselves, but necessary for Maine’s future. Maine has the oldest median age in the country. In 2015 only two counties, Cumberland and Androscoggin, saw more births than deaths. Many Mainers are nearing retirement age and there aren’t enough younger, potential employees to take their place. According to a report from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Development Foundation and Coastal Enterprises Inc., bringing in and training new Mainers is essential for Maine’s economic future.