LUKE, Md. (WJZ) — A century-old paper mill in western Maryland is shutting down in June, and government and union leaders are scrambling to minimize the impact of its closure.

The workforce at the Verso Luke Paper Mill has been declining as the demand for paper has declined in recent years, but shutting down entirely has impacted the Allegany County community.

Joanne Johnson worked at the Verso Luke Paper Mill for 44 years.

“It was a good living, and I hoped and prayed it would never close,” Johnson said.

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Governor Larry Hogan sent cabinet members to Luke to make good on a promise made when the plant announced its closing in April.

“The governor jumped on this,” State Senator George Edwards said. “He made calls to the CEO and other people at Verso and he said he’s going to pull out all the stops to make sure we do the best we can for the State of Maryland.”

Maryland’s Labor Secretary said workers can begin collecting unemployment benefits the day after their last day at work.

“We’ll be able to provide training benefits and other benefits to individuals who are impacted to be sure they get an opportunity to be re-employed, and if they need to get new skills we’ll having funding available for the training so they can get new skills to be re-employed,” Acting Secretary of Labor James Rzepkowski said.

Many of the millworkers living in West Virginia and Maryland have been in contact with the state’s senior senator.

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