Legislators are weighing whether to fully fund the Maine Climate Corps, a pilot project they created last year to help cope with climate change and train young people for careers in related fields.

A proposal by state Rep. Morgan Rielly, a Westbrook Democrat, would allocate $3.7 million during the next two years to pay for four leadership positions and 50 participants.

Rep. Morgan Rielly Submitted photo

Rielly said the corps would focus on issues ranging from energy education to helping rural communities make risk mitigation plans that can secure federal funds.

The corps, which currently has five positions and a $200,000 budget, “will provide on-ramps to meaningful careers that are in-demand,” he said, and offer members hired training, credentials and experience that will help them over the long haul.

State Rep. Sophie Warren, a Scarborough Democrat, told the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee this week that the initiative is “an opportunity to invest in Maine’s young people and support local communities to meet their needs through a year of service.”

Members of the corps receive pay and benefits, but to get anything done they have to work with local organizations and municipalities for everything from transportation to supplies.


Stacie Haines, a state commissioner at Volunteer Maine, told a public hearing the first four service members in the program will begin working in May at the Ellsworth-based Downeast Community Partners with a focus on reducing energy costs for low-income households.

The idea is to “help some of Maine’s most rural and marginalized communities address the climate crisis,” Haines said.

The state sees jobs in the clean energy field growing sharply by 2030. Maine Won’t Wait Progress Report

Members of the pilot project will get “on-the-job training and weatherization technician skills and certifications needed to work at energy efficiency companies,” she added.

Kathleen Tims of Portland told lawmakers, “We desperately need more positions in the economy that can guide and support the transition to a clean-energy, sustainable future.

“Without individuals fighting for Maine’s people and environment and building the climate programs that our policy outlines, we will not become a future leader economically or socially,” Tims said.

“Not only would a funded Maine Climate Corps Program help to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, but it would also provide an opportunity to conduct projects that would strengthen our state’s communities and support historically marginalized populations,” said Josh Caldwell, climate and clean energy outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.


Haines said lawmakers weighing whether to beef up the program should consider that “service opportunities have the potential to attract young people to Maine or allow them to stay here. People who serve in a community tend to set deep roots there.”

“A Maine Climate Corps Program would provide ample opportunity for Mainers, particularly our state’s youth, to engage with our state, our environment, and our climate in a substantive and rewarding way,” Caldwell said.

“This would help with promoting youth retention in state, encouraging continued long-term engagement with Maine’s natural resources, and growing a culture of stewardship that will be needed to preserve our state’s beauty and productivity for generations to come,” Caldwell said.

Rielly told the committee that Volunteer Maine has “connected with over 20 Maine organizations who could benefit from having a Climate Corps member.”

“This is an in-demand and popular program that needs additional funds to be effective in aiding Mainers in need from the Downeast to the Piscataqua River,” he said.

Rielly said, “This is a fiscally smart investment that will leverage state and future federal monies in order to make the strongest possible impact in addressing climate related issues our state faces in a systematic and efficient way.”

“Funding this climate-related service work,” said Jay McCreight of Harpswell, “will benefit the entire state by allowing for the needed workforce for participating communities as well as assistance for every community through the training materials that will be developed.”

The committee plans a Tuesday work session on the bill.

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