MeBIC, together with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and other MeBIC business partners is working to get at least partial funding for L.D. 647, An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New State Residents To Strengthen the Workforce, which was approved by the State Legislature in 2019 and carried over to this session for funding.
While L.D. 647 predated issuance of the Maine Economic Development Strategy 2020-2029 report, it is a workforce development bill that squarely aligns with, and will jump-start reaching that report’s objectives to attract new talent expressed at Action B4.
State revenues in FY 2020 have exceeded projections. Nonetheless, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) committee has bills before it collectively costing over a billion dollars. We recognize that getting full funding ($1.5 million/year) for L.D. 647 this year is highly unlikely, and so must prioritize what parts of the bill are the most urgently needed this year.
Statewide, adult education students attending English as a Second Language (ESL) classes comprised 41.7% of all adult education students during the fall 2019 semester, and in some cities that percentage is nearly 60%. Adult education programs confirm that if they had more capacity their ESL student population would be even higher, but currently they fall far short of meeting the demand.
English is the key to immigrants, from manual laborers to professionals, getting and advancing in employment. MeBIC and our partners have asked the AFA committee to prioritize Sections 2, 3, and 5 of L.D. 647, funding additional ESL classes and combined job skills/ESL classes, as well as a Welcome Center in Lewiston to help immigrants get jobs that reflect their capabilities.
We are still early on in the Appropriations process. Stay tuned, and contact MeBIC if your business would like to help us in this funding effort. L.D. 647 will help Maine’s immigrants reach their full potential in our communities and workforce, benefiting them, Maine’s employers, and the State’s economy.