MAINE, USA — Many Mainers are still unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of those people got together on Zoom on Friday morning to talk about their experiences.
James Myall from Maine Center for Economic Policy says that almost four months after the first COVID-19 case in Maine, there are still nearly to 89,000 Mainers relying on unemployment benefits.
"To keep themselves and their families fed and sheltered," he added.
That's why this group is urging Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to vote to extend the weekly $600 supplement. The extension has already been passed in the house under the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act but has not yet been voted on in the senate.
"We think it would be very easy to extend it for six months," Matt Schiobolm of Maine ATFLCIO said.
King supports extending the weekly benefits. Matthew Felling, the Communications Director for King, said King is working to find the "sweet spot" of what the continued extra benefits could be, and says it may not necessarily be the $600.
Collins released a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine: “Earlier this year, I voted to boost unemployment benefits because it was important for Congress to rapidly assist the growing number of struggling Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. I was informed by both the Treasury Department and the Maine DOL that the only way to quickly begin administering expanded benefits was through a flat rate increase. Now, states have had sufficient time to adjust their unemployment compensation systems. I support supplemental federal benefits in future coronavirus relief legislation that would help make people whole. Recipients should not receive more through unemployment compensation than they were previously earning. By fixing this unintentional disincentive to work, we can support families and help restore jobs more quickly.”
The Maine Department of Labor also held a press conference on Friday announcing a change in work search. Before the pandemic, in order to receive unemployment benefits, you had to also be looking for work. But that restriction was removed with so many people out of work. Starting in about a week that will be part of the weekly certification.
For those who are self-employed or planning to return to their previous employer when they are able to, work search isn't mandatory, but you must specify your situation on this page.
"This is a regular ongoing requirement for being eligible for unemployment insurance," Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said.
For those who are still receiving unemployment benefits, the work search requirement will begin on July 19 and will show up when filing your weekly certification at the end of that week.