Governor Janet Mills and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston announced today that six Maine Working Communities Challenge teams have been selected to receive three-year, $375,000 grants to begin implementing proposals that address local economic problems, including poverty and lack of work opportunity. The Working Communities Challenge is a unique three-year grant initiative supported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the State of Maine, national and local philanthropy, and private sector employers that aims to strengthen Maine’s rural towns. Under Governor Mills’ leadership, the State of Maine joined the Working Communities Challenge in 2020.
“Like many people across our state, rural Maine is my home. It is where my heart is. Our rural communities are valuable beyond measure, which is why we are so invested in The Working Communities Challenge,” said Governor Janet Mills. “The Challenge is bringing together the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Maine State government, private sector businesses, and community-based organizations to tackle the toughest issues our rural communities face and to strengthen them for years to come. I am proud to support this initiative through my Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, thank everyone for their collaborative work, and look forward to seeing the excellent work accomplished as a result of these grants.”
“A willingness to take on big, persistent challenges to improve community resilience is at the heart of the Working Communities Challenge,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “I thank the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston for their support in bringing this program to Maine and congratulate the six communities engaged in this important work – we look forward to supporting you as you work toward your goals.”
In addition to $1 million in federal funding provided by Governor Mills under her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, the Maine Working Communities Challenge is supported by more than $2.7 million from private sector funds, contributions from local and national philanthropies, and other federal grants.
Prabal Chakrabarti, a Boston Fed executive vice president and its community affairs officer, said the Boston Fed was impressed by the work of all the teams and the scope of what they’re taking on.
“Their efforts not only take advantage of real opportunities in their economically challenged regions but address issues in some of the state’s most at-risk populations that cannot be ignored,” Executive Vice President Chakrabarti said.
These six teams will enter the implementation phase with the following project goals:
- Greater Bangor: To improve economic equality by engaging diverse voices and changing systems around workforce, education, entrepreneurial development, and community support. The team is particularly focused on the trades, food businesses, and individual entrepreneurship.
- Katahdin Region: To build a thriving outdoor economy that delivers lasting prosperity for residents and creates career paths that help attract and retain younger workers.
- Lewiston and Auburn: To build, support, enhance, and sustain a culture of opportunity, equity, and inclusion. This work will address wealth gaps, catalyze economic growth, and increase opportunity among the marginalized communities of Lewiston Auburn, especially Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) youth, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and U.S.-born African Americans.
- Maine Highlands: To understand how persistent and growing poverty impacts the region, and to develop collaborative and inclusive strategies so everyone in the team’s communities can thrive.
- Washington County and the Passamaquoddy Tribe are working to invest in young people and parents to expand the number of living wage careers and reduce rates of child poverty in the county and the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
- Sagadahoc County: To create and strengthen interconnection between institutions and systems that serve local youth.
The Maine Working Communities Challenge is under the umbrella of the Working Places initiative at the Boston Fed. Working Places focuses on improving life for residents in New England towns, regions, and its smaller post-industrial cities. Its model unites people from various community sectors around a common vision for change.
All 16 Maine counties were represented in the 22 applications the challenge received from teams hoping to enter its design phase. A jury made up of a subset of the Maine Working Communities Challenge’s local steering committee selected eight teams to enter the design phase, and the six teams announced today are the final implementation grant awardees.