MAINE, USA — When the COVID pandemic hit, people who never imagined having to apply for unemployment found themselves trying to navigate how it all works.
"That can be a really daunting thing to be looking at if you aren't familiar with the process," Maine Department of Labor spokesperson Jessica Picard said.
It's a process with the goal of eventually getting Mainers back to work, especially minority groups and low-income residents who were hit the hardest.
The Maine Department of Labor is working with community groups like AFL-CIO and Maine Equal Justice to help people in their communities.
"What we found is that people often respond best when they can work with someone they know, someone they have a relationship with, someone they've built trust with," Matt Schlobohm, AFL-CIO executive director, said.
His organization, like others across the state, will hire a full-time "navigator" as part of Gov. Janet Mills' Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan.
Schlobohm added the goal is to "connect more workers with jobs. Trying to connect more workers with apprenticeship and training programs."
Not only that, but these navigators will also be able to help people find other supports they need, like affordable housing, childcare, and transportation.
"There are some programs that can help folks in doing that, but a lot of people might not really know about them," Robyn Merill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice, said.
These navigators are training with the Department of Labor and plan to be working with their communities soon.