Immigrants have made essential contributions to their U.S. communities and to our economy for centuries, and continue to do so. And despite the proliferation of anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigrants are vital to the country’s future.
Maine is currently experiencing record low unemployment that is leaving employers scrambling. Even with wages rising in an effort to attract more workers, as a state with more deaths than births and with an aging workforce whose retirements will produce 90% of projected job openings through 2024, Maine simply lacks enough available people to fill current and future job openings.
LD 1492, An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers To Strengthen the Workforce, sponsored by Senator Roger Katz, recognizes that immigrants are part of our workforce solution, and are essential for a vibrant Maine. LD 1492 positions Maine to better compete with other states to attract and keep immigrants in our communities. In addition LD 1492 will help Maine’s immigrants reach their full potential more quickly by increasing the availability of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, by creating worksite-based combined ESL and job training classes, and by expanding a Welcome Center Initiative to help more professional level immigrants navigate the process of translating their professional experience to Maine workplaces. Small planning grants would also be available to communities whose immigrant populations are growing.
LD 1492 received strong support from Maine’s business community, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Restaurant and Maine Innkeepers Associations, the Maine Health Care Association, and many individual businesses from southern Maine to Aroostook County. As of March 15, 2018, both chambers of Maine’s Legislature approved the bill, with bipartisan majorities.
LD 1492 now faces its next hurdle as it heads to the Appropriations committee to vie for funding, before being scheduled for any additional votes. Learn more about the bill here.