In Maine, 4,000 face loss of extended unemployment benefits

AUGUSTA — Barring action from Congress, about 4,000 Mainers who receive extended unemployment benefits will lose those benefits after Dec. 28, 2013.

The Maine Department of Labor, which administers the state’s unemployment benefits system, is urging those people to plan ahead.

Maine’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in October was 6.7 percent, the lowest figure since November 2008, according to preliminary estimates the labor department released Friday morning. The state’s unemployment rate fell from 6.9 percent in September and 7.2 percent in October 2012. The federal unemployment rate in October was 7.3 percent.

Gov. Paul LePage on Friday touted the fact that Maine’s unemployment rate is below the national rate.

“We have been working hard for three years to improve the business climate in Maine so our companies can do what they do best: create jobs,” he said in a statement. “We have reduced taxes, cut red tape, streamlined regulations and made fiscally responsible decisions to right-size government. All of these factors make Maine more competitive in attracting and retaining jobs.”

The labor department estimates 47,300 Mainers were unemployed last month, down 3,800 over the year.

Of those, 11,556 received unemployment compensation, either regular benefits from the state or extended benefits provided under the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which is a 100 percent federally funded program that Congress created in 2008 to provide benefits to individuals who have exhausted regular state benefits.

Maine’s Unemployment Insurance program — funded through the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund — provides 26 weeks of unemployment benefits to people who were laid off through no fault of their own. Beyond that, people can claim benefits for up to 20 additional weeks under the EUC program, for a total of 46 weeks.

Maine’s improving economy and the need to cut costs because of mandated budget cuts known as sequestration have already reduced the number of weeks people can collect EUC benefits. This past summer, the number of weeks a person in Maine could receive unemployment benefits decreased from 63 to 46.

Now, the roughly 4,000 currently receiving benefits under the EUC program face having those benefits disappear at the end of the year.

“People need to make financial plans,” LePage said in a statement. “They might also need to re-evaluate their job search strategy or change their career entirely by enrolling in a training program. No one should feel like they do not have any resources; the Department of Labor has resources to help people find a good job.”

The Maine Job Bank reached a record high of more than 8,100 open jobs on Nov. 14, according to the labor department.

There is a chance, however, that the EUC program will be extended.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who plans to run against LePage for governor in 2014, has co-sponsored a bill that would extend the EUC benefits for one year. He has also signed a letter to the heads of the budget committees in the House and Senate that calls for a one-year extension to be included in any budget deal that is currently being negotiated.

“Despite some positive gains, Maine still has pockets of high unemployment where emergency unemployment compensation is a lifeline for families struggling to make ends meet,” Michaud said in a statement. “Congress needs to act. Too many Americans have lost a job through no fault of their own, and this assistance is critical to helping them get back on the job.”

Whether the program is extended or not, the labor department is urging people to take advantage of the available resources. Maine’s network of CareerCenters will increase their job-search services and training to help job seekers find new positions.

For more information, visit a local CareerCenter or call 1-888-457-888 (TTY users dial Maine Relay 711) or visit www.mainecareercenter.com.

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Comments

Bob White's picture

Question for everybody

Why is it possible for a person that is 20 years old able to take a brake from college and get a job right away? Why is it possible for a person that is 60 years old able to quit a job she had since high school and have another job with in a week? Why is it possible for a person that is 42 years old able to lose his job and have another job in 3 weeks? When I speak of the examples I gave these people didn't just pick up low paying part time work that a high school kid would be expected to be doing but jobs that pay good with benefits. I don't know the stories of the 4000 people that are losing their jobs but maybe the governor is right maybe its time to re-evaluate their job search strategy or change their career entirely by enrolling in a training program. If they have been living on unemployment long enough that its getting canceled then I'm guessing they can find 1 or maybe 2 jobs that will support themselves.

Jodi Wolverton's picture

Liberal media paints positive economic news as negative

I find it interesting that the SJ chose to spin a positive economic story in a negative way with the column heading. Falling unemployment rate is simply positive news and the 4000 losing benefits should have been a separate story. I would imagine the SJ wouldn't spin the negative if we had a democratic governor. The liberal bias is glaring on this one.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Hey Jodi, I have a question for you.........

If the SJ had decided to print this as two separate stories, would you have read the story about 4000 people losing unemployment benefits?
This story had no details of how the unemployment level was lowered, there were no indications as to what took place to put people back to work. The only part of this story, even close to being about the unemployment rate, is LePage taking credit for everything, whether he had anything to do with it or not. This story is about 4000 people loosing unemployment benefits, many of these people represent families with children.
A couple of weeks ago the Republicans cut the SNAP benefits, now 4000 families are loosing what little help they were getting. Your lack of empathy and concern for your fellow man, is far more "Glaring" than any liberal bias in this paper. If you want the Governor to look good, your going to have to wait until he actually does something that will make the Governor look good. It's been three years, I haven't seen much yet.....................

Jodi Wolverton's picture

Good job, Governor Lepage

If you don't think Lepage has anything to do with the falling unemployment in Maine then I would have to imagine you believe Obama has nothing to do with the falling unemployment in the country...yet I'd be hard pressed to find any liberal media outlet that is willing to call Obama out on that. Obama loves to take credit for an improving economy nationally of which he has done nothing to impact.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

If LePage's unemployment policies?????????????

If LePage's unemployment policies are doing so well, why are four thousand people losing unemployment benefits. This only represents a fraction of the unemployed in this State.
This story isn't about the level of employment. It's about four thousand people losing what little livelihood they had left. Whats LePage doing about that??????????????????????

Thank You Governor

Thank You Governor Lepage!!
Keep up the good work
Lepage 2014!!

CAROLYN LIBBEY's picture

Job security is a wonderful

Job security is a wonderful thing, isn't it; that is, until the pink slip arrives!

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