SOUTH PARIS, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Cuts in federal funds dedicated to help job seekers find work are forcing service providers to make painful choices.
At the Maine Department of Labor, less money coming in from the Workforce Investment Act has meant less money going out to community partners who help run their satellite Career Centers.
"Those federal funds were cut from two years ago to last year," explained Peter Pare, director of the Maine Department of Labor's Bureau of Employment Services. "They were cut again this year."
"When the funds are reduced, adjustments have to be made," added Pare. "You just try to make the adjustments so that they are the least painful for everyone involved."
At the South Paris Career Center, those adjustments mean moving to a smaller, shared office, cutting staff members and closing its information center, where people could drop-in, access computers to browse job listings and do training exercises.
"It was really tough to make this decision, but it was a decision to either close and move out of the area, or at least try to reduce our footprint and maintain as much of the services that we can," stated Jim Trundy, the program manager for Western Maine Community Action, which has been the workforce service provider in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties for more than three decades.
"The big difference here will be it will be more on an appointment basis that you can get the service, but the service will still be available," said Trundy.
"People need the help," he added. "While there have been some jobs created, there is nowhere near enough, and if we are not here to help people do something, it just leaves a big hole."
At the end of the month, the South Paris Career Center will move into the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce building at 4 Western Avenue. There people looking for work will still be able to have their eligibility and case management assessments done, meet with staff to get advice and find training opportunities.
Trundy says they have also worked with Central Maine Community College to get people access to their computer lab to search for work in the future.
He says the satellite office they operate in Rumford will also experience some changes, and lose its computer lab as well. The Rumford Career Center will stay at the same address, but will move into a smaller office down the hall.
While there is not interim computer center location in that community, Trundy hopes to find another community partner willing to open its doors to help people who need access to the internet.
The Maine Department of Labor has also been working with Maine's libraries to make sure job seekers can access their services on library computers.
"I think it is going to be a struggle for some people not having it as accessible," said Terri Morrison as she searched the job bank database in the South Paris Career Center. "I don't think it will be as easy as it is now, and I think that will put some people at a disadvantage."
Morrison says it is tough for people who are unemployed to make appointments when they are struggling to keep their lives together.
"I realize if you are not working, people will say, 'well, you've got plenty of time to do what you need to do.' That is not neccesarily the case," she said. "You may not have the means, or you may not have the transportation."
"What you are seeing is the folks making every attempt with the funds that they have to continue to deliver services, but you have to deliver services that are affordable," explained Pare. "So the best thing to do in this case was to reduce the size of the office, save some money. And that is a much better alternative in my mind, and in the service providers mind, than closing up completely."