Members of Maine’s Congressional delegation have petitioned Thomas Perez, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor for Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers at the Old Town mill.

The mill abruptly closed its doors on Aug. 13, when its doors were shuttered without prior notification to employees. In a press release, mill officials blame the closure on foreign competition and high wood and energy costs. Mill officials said the workers were being furloughed, rather than laid off; at the same time, city officials said another buyer was being sought for the mill.

In a joint letter from Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and a separate letter from Congressman Mike Michaud, all three noted that global competition has made it incredibly difficult for mills to compete in the international marketplace. They added that there has been a significant loss of jobs throughout Maine’s pulp and paper industry in recent years, and that the laid-off workers will have to make a tremendous effort to find alternative employment.

“Since many related wood product manufacturers have already experienced closures as a result of similar declines in business due to foreign trade, it is likely to be very difficult, if not virtually impossible, for these workers to find comparable positions, and they may require retraining for other emerging occupations. Thus, it is crucial that these workers receive certification under the TAA program,” said Collins and King in their joint statement.

Michaud, meanwhile, noted that the mill is one of the primary employers in Old Town and that the displacement of the workers could result in serious economic consequences for the city and surrounding communities.

“TAA will be critical to helping these workers receive the necessary training to find alternative,” wrote Michaud. “We ask that you review this Trade Adjustment Assistance as quickly as possible and to help these workers receive the assistance they need to secure work and lessen the negative effects on their financial stability.”

The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program is a federal program that provides a path for employment growth and opportunity through aid to US workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade. The TAA program seeks to provide trade-affected workers with opportunities to obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become reemployed. Approval of the petition would provide the support for Old Town Fuel and Fiber workers to get retrained for new jobs if necessary.

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