A federal judge has ordered Gov. Paul LePage to release about $3 million in federal job training funds to one of Maine’s three regional workforce boards.
The decision comes four months after the governor refused to release about $8 million in federal funds that are intended to go to the regional boards, including about $3 million for Coastal Counties Workforce, Inc., based in Brunswick.
LePage has repeatedly tried to consolidate the boards into one to reduce administrative costs, but those efforts have been rejected by federal officials.
In a lawsuit filed in October, Coastal Counties said without the money, thousands of job seekers across Maine couldn’t get the services they need.
Ultimately, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the state didn’t have the power to withhold the funds and that Coastal Counties could suffer “irreparable harm” without them.
Kelly McDonald, a lawyer representing Coastal Counties, says the judge’s order will keep the organization afloat.
“They knew that this was urgent for us, that Coastal Counties is going to out of business if it doesn’t get this money,” he says. “And this was a huge amount of work on the part of the court. We’re appreciative of the result.”
Officials with the state and Coastal Counties now have about a week to work out the details of how the organization will receive the funds.
However, McDonald adds the injunction is preliminary and state officials have an opportunity to appeal the ruling.
A spokesperson for Gov. LePage said she she couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation. The Maine Department of Labor did not return requests for comment.