2018 Maine State Legislature: MeBIC supports LD 1492

LD 1492, An Act to Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers to Strengthen the Workforce. Sponsor: Sen. Roger Katz

LD 1492 addresses Maine’s shrinking labor supply by recognizing immigrants as a critical part of the solution. Passed out of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs with 11-2 support, it was later carried over to 2018.   At a January 31, 2018 work session, LD 1492 once again received strong Committee support.  As amended, the bill would provide funding to expand the availability of adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, offer combined ESL and job training at worksites in public/private partnerships, expand the New Mainers Resource Center model operating in Portland into the Lewiston-Auburn area, and provide funds for planning grants for communities experiencing growing influxes of immigrants to assess services needed to help reduce brain waste and accelerate immigrant integration.

There was no 2018 testimony taken, but at last year’s public hearing, the bill received broad support from Maine’s business community, including several MeBIC partners, such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., the Maine Healthcare Association, Barber Foods, Pro Search, Inc., SIGCO, Inc. Smith’s Farms, as well as from adult education providers, the Lewiston City Council, other individual employers, and Maine residents. The Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association also submitted testimony supported key portions of the bill.

The bill is now headed to the full Legislature for a vote.  See a summary here.

English language skills are one of the biggest barriers hindering immigrants from reaching their full potential in the workforce and in our communities. Maine’s immigrants want to improve their English, but often face daunting waiting lists to get into adult education English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Portland and Lewiston, or find that classes matching their level of English are simply not offered yet in communities whose immigrant populations have been growing recently, such Augusta, Bangor and Biddeford. Moreover, research has shown the effectiveness of contextualized ESL classes, and workplace based classes combined with job training, as proposed in the bill, improve both workplace skills, and also ESL class accessibility, so that students don’t need to choose between the short term need to work and their long term learning goals.  LD 1492 would take a strong first step at lowering barriers to immigrant integration, benefiting immigrants and Maine’s labor supply alike.

MeBIC urges Maine’s business community to contact their Representatives and Senators to voice their support of LD 1492.   For further information about LD 1492, contact Beth Stickney at MeBIC.