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Progressive group estimates up to 95K Mainers impacted by end of federal unemployment aid

The Maine Center for Economic Policy, a progressive group, says more than 22,000 Mainers have now lost their federal benefits.
The Maine Center for Economic Policy, a progressive group, says more than 22,000 Mainers have...
The Maine Center for Economic Policy, a progressive group, says more than 22,000 Mainers have now lost their federal benefits.(Gray tv)
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 6:17 AM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - A progressive group in Maine estimates nearly 95,000 people in our state will be impacted by the expiration of federal unemployment benefits.

One organized labor advocate says ending the benefits, which expired on Sept. 4, will be “disastrous” for Mainers relying on those $300 weekly payments.

Andy O’Brien, the communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, says many aging workers are struggling to find work similar to previous employment.

“These people have been applying for hundreds of jobs, many of the people we talk to, and they’re not getting a call back,” O’Brien said.

Another likely impacted group, he says, is young mothers unable to return to work due to lack of child care options.

“It is easy to cast judgment based on anecdotes, hearsay and the number of help wanted signs at restaurants and other businesses but it is important to think of the challenges that a lot of these people face,” O’Brien said.

“Every businessman I know is struggling to just keep the doors open right now because there’s no employees. Nobody wants to work,” said Dante Vespignani, a Windham-based business coach.

Vespignani, who offers consulting through his company Terma Inc., says before the pandemic he worked with roughly a dozen businesses.

Now he’s working with only a handful.

Vespignani hopes ending the federal benefits will help the struggling businesses he supports hire staff.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy, a progressive group, says more than 22,000 Mainers have now lost those federal benefits, citing data from the Maine Department of Labor.

Using Census data, the center projects the loss of benefits will impact 94,800 Mainers, when taking into account dependents.

The center says states have the ability to use money from the American Rescue Plan to support federal unemployment recipients.

The group says, however, the Mills administration has shown no sign that funding would be used that way.

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