In this May 5, 2018, file photo Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Republican Convention in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Despite pushback from local officials, the U.S. Department of Labor has approved much of a new state policy requiring Maine’s three regional workforce boards to spend at least 70 percent of their budget on direct job training.

At a meeting of the Maine State Workforce Board Friday, labor officials said that the feds approved the new plan, minus a section that would have docked funding if the state’s regional boards couldn’t meet the new requirement.

However, the policy has faced strong opposition from many workforce officials and some lawmakers.

Rep. Ryan Fecteau, of Biddeford, says the 70 percent spending minimum is one of the highest in the country, and that it could severely harm job seekers across Maine. Fecteau says providers will be unable to offer enough counseling and case management services, leaving job seekers without needed support.

“And now we’re saying we’re going to have less boots on the ground to assist these folks,” Fecteau says. “And we’re going to funnel the few people we can get our hooks on into training, and hope for the best.”

Despite those worries, acting Director Joshua Howe says much of the new policy was approved by federal officials, excluding a section that would dock funding if a regional board can’t meet the new requirements.

“And it was formally approved, without conditions, in August,” Howe told the board. “So, we’re moving forward.”

The governor is allowed to decertify the regional workforce boards if they fail to meet the requirements for two consecutive years.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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