State Watch

Maine offering $1,500 payments to people on unemployment who go back to work

The Maine state government on Tuesday announced it would be providing $1,500 payments to be given to employees who start working between June 15-30 to encourage unemployed residents to rejoin the workforce.

In a press release, the state government said the payments are part of the state's "Back to Work" program and will be administered by the Maine Department of Labor and the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Apart from the $1,500 payment, people who begin working in June will be eligible for another one-time payment of $1,000.

The program is first-come, first-serve and uses $10 million in federal funding. These payments could potentially affect up to 7,500 Mainers.

"We have worked hard over the last fifteen months to get the pandemic under control so that it's safe for everyone to return to work. Now COVID cases are down, vaccines are widely available, and jobs are plentiful," Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) said in the release.

"Employers across the state are looking to staff up, which means there are opportunities for everyone to work, earn a living and contribute to our state's economic recovery," Mills added. "With this new program, we are providing another tool to accelerate peoples' transition back into the workforce, protecting their health and their long-term financial stability."

To be eligible to receive the payment, employees must have received unemployment for the week of May 29, 2021; accept a full-time job that pays less than $25 an hour and stay with the job for eight weeks; and not receive unemployment benefits for those eight weeks of unemployment.

At the beginning of June, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report that showed the labor shortage in the U.S. has worsened in the past few months, with a record 8.1 million vacant jobs in the U.S.

Though GOP lawmakers have blamed expanded unemployment benefits of disincentivizing people from rejoining the workforce, labor experts have said the shortage is largely due to a mixture of factors including schools continuing to stay closed and lingering concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Forbes reported in May, economists from the Bank of America (BofA) predicted that the labor shortage may push wages higher as employers become desperate and people hold out for higher pay. BofA senior U.S. economist Joseph Song predicted that wages would rise in sectors that were hit the hardest by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality.

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