chamber of commerce

SNOWE URGES LABOR SECRETARY, APPROPRIATORS TO EXPEDITE GRANT FUNDS TO BENEFIT DEXTER EMPLOYEES

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Citing concern for approximately 500 Maine workers who will loose their jobs when Dexter Shoe Company ceases operation of its Dexter, Maine facility at the end of the year, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) is urging Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Senate Appropriators to expedite funds for a Temporary Transition Center. The center, which would receive funds under the National Emergency Grant (NEG) program, will provide readjustment and retraining assistance for both the Dexter Shoe workers, and those who will be indirectly impacted due to the high number of jobs being lost in the Dexter area.

“What has happened in Dexter will have long lasting effects without NEG funding. If workers and others affected by the shutdown of this major employer cannot obtain the proper assistance to redirect their lives economically, the results will be devastating,” said Snowe in a letter to Secretary Chao. “I ask that you give careful consideration to honoring the Maine Department of Labor’s proposal for National Emergency Grant funding so the Department may adequately assist the workers and those indirectly affected, as well as the town of Dexter and surrounding communities.”

Currently these workers are covered by a 1999 decision by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits. In mid-September, Snowe’s office contacted the Maine Department of Labor following the layoff announcement and participated in the Maine RETI sessions to assist displaced workers. In addition, Snowe’s staff worked with the Dexter town authorities to arrange a briefing for affected workers on September 28, 2001. The briefing, organized by Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC), included representatives of federal and state agencies that offer job training assistance for workers, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

In a separate letter to Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Snowe noted that currently, the closest career centers to Dexter are more than an hour’s drive away.

“While the workers will be eligible for career counseling, training, and other services made available through Trade Adjustment Assistance and Workforce Investment Act funds, currently, there is no convenient location in which these services can be offered.” Snowe said. “The career centers nearest to Dexter are an hour's drive away in Bangor and Dover-Foxcroft, and while conveniently-located, affordable site for the transition center has been identified, funding is needed to operate the center, pay for tuition, books, and fees, hire staff, and purchase a limited amount of essential equipment.”

“The decision by Dexter Shoe to end all domestic shoe production will directly affect 475 workers and, according to a Maine Department of Labor estimate, another 250 workers indirectly in a community of just over 4,000 people,” said Snowe. “It is my hope that the Maine Department of Labor will receive the funds necessary to establish a training center soon, so that we may quickly retrain these workers in new fields and assist the communities in returning to normal.”

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