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LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services were bragging on Tuesday about the early success of a new partnership, helping welfare recipients learn new work skills.

According to DHHS, five thousand people on the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program –TANF-- are also enrolled in a project called "ASPIRE".

Both those programs are federally funded, but managed by the state of Maine. The ASPIRE program now uses the Department of Labor to help people learn work skills and find other job training, while Health and Human Services deals with child care and other needs.

They say the program is already showing results and people are getting jobs more quickly because of the partnership. Several ASPIRE graduates said the program changed their lives and will help others get off welfare.

Commissioner Mayhew says their data collected for the program shows "80 percent of people want to work", while other data shows 70% of people in ASPIRE have some kind of mental health history, and that 25% of the people in the program are in recovery from substance abuse.

They say the range of services in the program help people deal with a wide range of problems and get them ready to be in the work force. And Mayhew says the program should be a lot bigger to meet the real need.

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