PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s Department of Labor plans to lay off up to 10 counselors who help Maine’s long-term unemployed and unemployed veterans, as that group has dwindled to record lows.

Outgoing Maine Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette said the department will stop participating in the federal grant program that supports those positions because of the way it is funded.

The state gets reimbursed based on the number of attendees at counseling workshops and follow-up meetings through the program.

The department said a low volume of participants means lower federal reimbursements, which would require the state to put in money to support those positions in the program, called the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment program, or RESEA.

“RESEA is a successful program because it helps people on unemployment get back to work earlier, but the current funding model is not flexible for low-unemployment states,” Paquette said in a news release.

Paquette said Maine is the first state to officially put the program on hold, though others are considering it. The move comes as unemployment insurance claims are at a 32-year low and Maine’s unemployment rate is at the lowest rate recorded.

She said the department will continue to help the long-term unemployed at the state’s Career Centers through the Worker Profiling and Reemployment Services program. And next year, she said the department will review its participation in the federal program.

“The department does anticipate participating when the volume of claims rises due to a change in economic conditions,” the department of labor stated.

The department said it is working with the employees it will lay off to help them find other jobs as the program phases out in the coming weeks.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.