Governor Mills Announces $4 Million Health Workforce Program and Visits Washburn & Doughty, Bigelow Laboratory

Governor Janet Mills on June 7 announced $4 million from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Program for job creation and job recovery for healthcare workers. Mills made the announcement at Sheepscot Valley Health Center in Coopers Mills before visiting Washburn and Doughty and Bigelow Laboratory in East Boothbay and Lincolnville Communications in Nobleboro.

The $4 million is part of a $20 million initiative, the Governor’s Jobs Plan. Details include healthcare training programs, tuition assistance for employees and employers who enroll in training, healthcare career navigators and two healthcare career campaigns .

Washburn and Doughty President Katie Doughty Maddox welcomed Mills and her entourage to the company’s main office where they discussed everything from company achievements to issues of supply chain and housing issues. Workforce. Maddox said his company’s workforce is at about 75% capacity, with daily commutes from as far away as Augusta each morning.

“I think people look at Lincoln County and say, ‘Oh, this is our wealthiest county in the state. Well, that doesn’t get us very far if there’s no room for young people,” Maddox said. “Over the past year, we have lost two key management employees… One… is now… working remotely, with a huge pay rise and still lives here. It’s hard to compete with that. »

Citing slight successes for housing in other basic industries like Sugarloaf’s purchase of the Herbert Hotel in Kingfield and the Greenville medical staff housing initiative, Mills said the problems in the Boothbay area boil down to its size and price limitations, and the increase in second homes and short-term vacation rentals.

Maddox said part of the local concerns are that vacation rentals through companies like Vrbo, SecondHome and AirBnB have helped weaken local housing availability. The rules of the game are no longer level playing field, she said. “It’s really getting Zoom-town…We need a way to discourage owning a second home to earn an income.”

Mills said that with the passage of LD 2003, legislation allowing secondary suites, recent legislation on small homes and other housing and development standards, and the recently approved supplementary budget, the state has attempted to break down barriers and help create new and existing housing. accessible accommodation where possible. Part of the burden will fall on cities to adapt local codes to the needs of the region, she said.

As long-term solutions continue to materialize, Mills said it’s cold comfort for many Maine workers and businesses in need of immediate help.

“I think people get imaginative about it, but we hear about it everywhere,” Mills said. “People have to dig deep into their pockets because they can’t wait for developers to build a brick-and-mortar building of 50 condos. They must seek immediate and temporary housing.

The Emergency Housing Assistance Fund, $22 million of the Supplementary Budget, will help homeless people get housing assistance, and the launch of the Housing Opportunity Fund helps cities expand housing options , Mills said. LD 2003 also provides funding to cities for planning consultants to help analyze local ordinances for potential changes.

Maddox said: “We’re trying to get back on a normal trajectory but it’s been very difficult… We’re under constant threat if someone can’t find accommodation they may have to leave. Sometimes we succeed and help them find accommodation. Sometimes they don’t.

In a follow-up interview with the Boothbay Register, Mills spoke about current efforts to make Maine more family-friendly, to help foster a workforce that can meet the demand for industrial jobs like those in Washburn. and Doughty, for healthcare jobs to support Maine’s aging. population, and keep Maine at the forefront of environmental research like what the Bigelow lab is doing.

“(We) began, during the pandemic, to develop an economic response commission and signal (thus) that we had a plan in place when (ARPA) the federal money arrived. So we presented a plan to the legislature that … looked at workforce, child care, internet, those things that we need to attract young families and keep them here. The budget I signed just a month ago does a lot of that.

Mills said to deal with child care, Maine needs an expansion of spaces, as well as the training of new early childhood educators and child care staff and a better remuneration for these services. She said Maine is meeting those needs in the budget by using American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to help expand things like YMCA-style daycares and licensed daycares by expanding physical space. and inventory.

“We train people in vocational and technical education and community colleges, (providing) two years of free tuition and a lot of early childhood training,” she said. “Benefits for existing child care workers … started during the pandemic with federal funds, paying early childhood educators an extra $200 a month to stay on the job. We continued only in the state budget “

Mills said she has visited several child care centers and was impressed with how they were able to respond with the extra funds. “It’s a growing need and the state is doing what it can to support them (and) the families who depend on them to stay at work.”

Asked about the rest of Maine’s immediate concerns like rising gas, fuel oil and food prices and other inflation, Mills said little can be done to change federal and global issues at the local level, but these are still issues that require an answer.

“What can the governor of a small rural state do about it? … I can’t call Vladimir Putin and ask him to get the hell out of Ukraine. I would love to, but he won’t take my calls. But what I can do is help Maine through this period of inflation… That’s why in our supplemental budget – which just passed in a unanimous report from a committee, a bipartisan budget – we let’s give money back to the people of Maine. We were fortunate, through hard work and financial measures, to have a surplus in the state budget. We want to return this immediately; 60% of the excess goes back to the people of Maine in the form of checks for $850. It’s $1,700 for a working family of two, probably one of the most effective measures of any state in the country right now. It’s not targeted for X,Y,Z, but it’s for people in Maine to use it however they want and need. Whether it’s for a grocery bill, for a utility bill, for gas (or) for heating oil for next winter.

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