Maine unemployment claims hit brand-new record of almost 24000 last week – Press Herald

2April 2020

Unemployment claims skyrocketed to tape highs in Maine and throughout the nation last week as economic interruption from the coronavirus pandemic touched almost every corner of the country.

Claims in Maine reached 23,761 for the week ending Saturday, the Department of Labor reported. That goes beyond the previous week’s almost 21,450 claims and is the greatest variety of weekly claims on record.

In the past 2 weeks, about 45,200 Mainers have declared unemployment benefits, more than the roughly 35,400 initial claims filed in all of 2019. Nationwide, more than 6.6 million people declared unemployment recently, double the number the week in the past. Practically 10 million Americans who had tasks in mid-March have actually considering that applied for unemployment benefits.

Economists say the unmatched number of task losses make it clear that economies in the United States and all over the world are sinking into an economic crisis.

The state’s joblessness department has actually strained to keep up with the claims, causing aggravating wait times and technical hold-ups.

Professionals, the self-employed and other presently disqualified employees are still unable to get advantages despite the passage of a federal relief bill that expands eligibility, due to the fact that the Maine Department of Labor has yet to receive instructions from the federal government on how to execute those changes to the claims system.

For numerous who are already eligible, losing employer-sponsored health insurance will make an already stressful situation worse.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy, a progressive, nonprofit research study group, estimates that as numerous as 87,000 Mainers will be out of work by the end of June as a result of coronavirus.

“What that represents is an unemployment rate of almost 16 percent, sometimes that of the Great Economic downturn,” policy analyst Sarah Austin stated in a teleconference Thursday.

Workers in the food, beverage, retail and hospitality service markets have been hit hardest in the wave of joblessness. Maine’s restaurants and bars were closed to the general public two weeks ago, although takeout and shipment of food are still allowed. Recently, the state purchased excessive organizations such as barber shops, going shopping malls, health clubs, automobile dealers and others to close. On Thursday, Gov. Janet Mills’ statewide stay-at-home order went into impact.

The present economic crisis is distinct due to the fact that it was activated by procedures intended to limit virus transmission and avoid the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, Austin said.

“All of these are really big financial numbers that are shocking and have a big impact on individuals’s income,” she said. “They can’t be seen outside of the truth that we remain in a public health emergency situation. We can’t ask policymakers to take a look at this as a regular economic crisis.”

The recession created by physical distancing and stay-at-home procedures resounds beyond public-facing businesses.

Some construction workers and producers are amongst those who have been laid off. So are some white-collar workers. Recently, Portland-based international education nonprofit CIEE laid off nearly 250 workers. Tilson Technology Management, a Portland-based innovation firm, laid off roughly 50 workers after a job in Florida was canceled, a spokesperson stated.

Four Maine companies submitted notifications needed for mass layoffs with the state last week. ConForm, an automotive fiber company in Auburn; Huhtamaki, a paper items mill in Waterville; JS McCarthy Printers in Augusta; and HMS Host, which provides airport food service at Portland International Jetport, said they were laying off in between 60 and 100 employees each.

For lots of, losing a paycheck also suggests losing health insurance. Employer-sponsored medical insurance covers 48 percent of Mainers, according to the Kaiser Household Foundation.

Ann Woloson, executive director of Customers for Affordable Healthcare, stated her company has seen hundreds more inquiries in the past two weeks compared with previous months.

“We assume that is going to increase much more because we are heading into a new month– people might have been able keep their healthcare through completion of the month,” Woloson said.

The state broadened Medicare in 2018, a move that will open totally free or very low-priced medical insurance to more individuals, Woloson said. A household of 3 with a regular monthly earnings of $2,498 or less will get approved for free coverage, she stated.

Others can turn to subsidized medical insurance through the Affordable Care Act. If people lose their medical insurance, they have a possibility to get a new plan through an insurance exchange, Woloson said.

“I do not wish to state we have a service for everybody, but many individuals will have the ability to get access to cost effective coverage in Maine,” she said.

The tsunami of joblessness declares just shows a portion of Mainers whose income has actually vanished. Many small business owners, independent professionals and “gig economy” workers don’t receive welfare.

Catherine Scanlon, 53, lost her task as a graphic designer at a small four-person workplace last week. She requested benefits but was denied because she did not have actually the needed 18 months of employment history to receive benefits. Scanlon was a stay-at-home parent but went back to school and got her job last August.

Scanlon believes she will receive advantages under the recently passed federal expansion, however simply looking at the Department of Labor site she can’t tell if that holds true or when she might get relief.

“There is absolutely nothing to assure you (that) you are going to get your advantages,” Scanlon said. “I feel in the dark. It makes it really hard. Just tell me so I can determine what I require to do to keep the heat on and feed my kid.”

The federal CARES Act, passed last week, broadens eligibility to include those generally ineligible such as professionals, “gig” workers and the self-employed. It likewise extends the maximum regard to unemployment benefits by 13 weeks, to 39 weeks total, and supplies an additional $600 each week in advantages to each employee. The normal weekly unemployment benefit in Maine has to do with $350.

However those advantages are not currently offered in Maine, despite the fact that the state chose into the program late last week, Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman stated.

“We remain in regular contact with Department of Labor, until we get assistance from them, we do not know what we need to put in location to get these advantages out the door,” she said.

Today, the department advises laid-off workers who have actually made a routine paycheck for the past 18 months to file a claim. Other workers must wait up until the federal growth kicks in, because up until then, such claims will be rejected, Fortman said.

Mainers continue to have issues making an application for unemployment, and they have reported disappointment getting answers through the department’s overloaded phone and email systems. Call are just being responded to between 8 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. since personnel are required to process claims.

Fortman advised people to use online, but the site does not operate on smart devices and there is no plan to adjust it for mobile devices, she said. The department has actually relied on CareerCenter personnels to field easy concerns and assist reset passwords, worked with new employees and brought back retirees, and is considering bringing in personal contractors to improve customer support, a department spokesperson said today.

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