LEWISTON — A regional effort is underway to help support those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

During a virtual session Tuesday, officials from Eastern Maine Development Corp. and Community Concepts discussed the launch of a worker relief initiative aimed at delivering support and resources to workers in the Lewiston-Auburn area who have lost a job due to COVID-19.

According to a news release, the initiative will connect displaced workers with local resources and services, and “peer navigators” will provide support to individuals interested in changing careers or seeking more education or training.

“Anyone who lost a job in Lewiston or Auburn as a result of the pandemic should consider us a one-stop support center — seeking to get people back to work and improving the trajectory of their lives,” Susan Cerini, director of workforce services at EMDC, said.

The program is funded by the Maine Department of Labor with federal money from the U.S. Department of Labor disaster relief employment, and is a partnership with the Central Western Maine Workforce Development Board, EMDC and Community Concepts.

During the virtual session for those looking to find out more, Cerini said the funding will allow them to hire a program manager and five peer navigators.

She said they are still seeking to hire navigator positions, which can be people taking part in the initiative.

Navigators will assist individuals in applying for food and housing supplement resources; one-on-one career counseling; resume-building and interview preparation; training and supportive services; job placement and paid mentorships.

Cerini said navigators will act as a liaison “to get people the answers they need.”

“We’re hoping we can be that one phone call you can make,” she said. “We want to take away some of the stress of figuring out what’s next. We’re hoping we can help get people to where they need to be.”

One of the participants in the Zoom call was Dawn Buraleh, who said she recently lost her job, and would inquire further about a peer navigator position. She said she had been “finding difficulty” in securing employment recently.

Cerini said most of the work is remote, but that the initiative will have a home base at the Lewiston CareerCenter. She said the positions are likely for 12 months.

“We are a catalyst for hope and opportunities for displaced workers during the pandemic,” Lee Umphrey, president and CEO of EMDC, said. “When people face economic hardship and unemployment they need clear information, sound guidance and easy access to resources. This initiative will meet those needs while reassuring workers that the community stands with them.”


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