The U.S. Department of Labor has approved federal funding to provide worker assistance and retraining opportunities to workers at three Maine companies who have lost their jobs because of foreign competition.

The funding through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program was announced in a news release Tuesday from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King. Part of it will go to assist workers at Verso Paper’s Androscoggin Mill in Jay. The Jay mill announced in August that 300 workers would be laid off by the end of the year.

Workers from Eastland Shoe in Freeport and Kelly-Smith Printing and Paper in Newport will also be assisted.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Senate voted in June to reauthorize the federal TAA program, which was based upon The Trade Adjustment Assistance Enhancement Act of 2015 that Collins co-authored with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the release said.

“This announcement is welcome news for the hardworking men and women of Maine,” the senators said in the joint release. “TAA plays an essential role in helping Americans across our country who through no fault of their own have lost their jobs as a result of foreign, often unfair competition. Our workers are the best in the world, and they can compete when there is a level playing field. TAA programs provide a crucial lifeline that enables displaced workers to acquire new skills and the new training necessary to prepare for other industries.”

In the 2013 fiscal year alone, more than 700 Mainers used TAA programs and more than 70 percent of them found employment within three months of completing their retraining programs, the release said. Of those who found employment, more than 90 percent were still employed in their new jobs six months later.


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