JAY — A state Rapid Response Team is in the process of setting up meetings with Verso Corp. to help Androscoggin Mill workers who will lose their jobs beginning this month.

The company announced in August that it will permanently eliminate 300 jobs and shut down a paper machine and a pulp dryer. Verso Corp. cited a number of reasons for shutdown and layoffs, including market decline, high taxes and energy costs.

The team, part of the Department of Labor, will hold its first meetings on Thursday, Oct. 15, and Friday, Oct. 16, with workers from Elite, a temporary staffing agency, Thomas Hagerstrom, a Rapid Response Team coordinator, said.

They are working with Verso representatives to set up meetings for mill employees affected by the job loss, Judith Pelletier said. She is the Rapid Response Team program coordinator and Trade Adjustment assistant program coordinator.

“We are available to go in whenever they want us to,” Hagerstrom said.

The U.S. Department of Labor had not made a decision on the petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance for Verso workers as of Monday.

They do not know how many people will actually lose their jobs, but they are planning for the full 300, Pelletier said.

The company offered early retirement incentive packages to eligible, hourly employees.

Layoffs are expected to begin at the end of the month.

Each person affected will be given a “Transitions, a Resource Guide to Restarting Career and Community” booklet.

The response team will go over unemployment insurance in general terms, touching on when they can file, how to apply and how much they can get. The maximum time anyone can collect regular unemployment benefits is 26 weeks. The maximum amount is $397 a week, Pelletier said.

In order to start a claim, a person has to register with the Maine Job Bank website through the Maine CareerCenter.

The team will also go over health care options, which are also listed in the “Transitions” booklet. “I really stress they (should) talk to (Consumers for) Affordable Health Care,” Pelletier said.

“We want to make sure they know there are affordable options,” Hagerstrom said.

The team will also go over the job search process and all the resources available through CareerCenters. There are a number of CareerCenters around the state, including in Wilton and Lewiston. The centers offer services, including job search assistance, training options and tips on resume writing.

Two peer supporters, to be hired from people who lose their jobs at Verso, will assist the other laid-off workers, Pelletier said.

“We just want to get them linked to the services they are eligible for,” Pelletier said.

Some of these people will look for training opportunities, Hagerstrom said, because maybe they have worked in the paper mills all of their lives.

“We’re hoping to turn this into a positive situation for these people,” he said.

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