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Maine getting nearly $3 million to improve access to unemployment benefits

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 4:46 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The US Department of Labor is giving Maine nearly $3 million in grant funding to help improve access to unemployment benefits.

The Maine Department of Labor says it will use the money from the American Rescue Plan Act to help raise awareness about the availability of unemployment insurance and its application process.

Commissioner Laura Fortman says the pandemic exposed challenges within the program and highlighted how important it is to be user-friendly.

She says the improvements made with this funding will not only be helpful for those eligible now, but will help prepare Maine for any future economic downturns.

According to the MDOL, the state’s unemployment rate is currently 3.2% percent, the lowest it’s been in more than two years.

Here in the full release from the Department:

Maine Awarded Nearly $3 Million for Unemployment Outreach Program Bookmark and Share

June 22, 2022

For Immediate Release: June 22, 2022

Maine Awarded Nearly $3 Million for Unemployment Outreach Program

Maine and six other states have been awarded over $18 million to help eligible workers understand the application process for claiming and receiving unemployment benefits and related services.

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Labor has been awarded $2,997,237 in competitive grant funding by the U.S. Department of Labor to help eligible workers understand the application process for claiming and receiving unemployment benefits and related services. Six other states were also awarded funds, for a combined total of over $18 million.

Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the grants will support efforts to reduce disparities in unemployment benefits and services in the seven states.

Maine will use this grant to reach underserved communities to raise awareness of the availability of unemployment insurance benefits as a temporary financial resource during periods of job loss while individuals seek new employment. This outreach will educate the public about the program and how to access benefits if eligible, help individuals navigate the application process, and identify potential barriers or challenges that may be preventing individuals in these communities from accessing unemployment benefits.

Prior to 2020 in which unemployment recipiency rates sharply increased in Maine and nationally, recipiency rates had been steadily declining. Maine's recipiency rate, or the extent to which benefits are provided to those who are covered by the program, was 0.29 in 2019. While this is in line with national trends, this grant will assist the Department in ensuring that all laid off workers eligible for the program are aware of the resource and how to access it.

"The pandemic highlighted how crucial having user-friendly programs for workers and businesses are. Many individuals who desperately needed, and were eligible for, the critical financial safety net of unemployment insurance were unfamiliar with the process or found it challenging to access. As a result, the Department has been focused on strengthening and improving programs such as unemployment insurance as quickly as possible," Commissioner Laura Fortman said. "This grant will allow MDOL to do a deep dive into barriers faced by eligible laid off workers and revise systems accordingly, improve communications, and increase awareness. The resulting improvements will not only help those who are currently eligible, but also will help us prepare for any future economic downturns."

With Maine's current 3.2% unemployment rate, the lowest it has been in 26 months, now is an ideal time to focus on improving program and communication materials.

This new outreach initiative will work in tandem with reemployment programs such as the Department's Workforce Navigator Program announced earlier this year, and the Re-Employment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) program, ensuring that all eligible individuals have the financial support needed to attend to basic life needs while taking steps to rejoin the workforce.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s press release can be found here: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20220610-0

Maine Department of Labor

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