As Maine continues its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mills Administration announced a new program aimed at getting unemployed Maine people back into the workforce.

The “Back to Work” program, administered by the Maine Department of Labor and the Department of Economic and Community Development, will provide employers a one-time $1,500 payment for eligible workers who start jobs between June 15 and June 30 or a $1,000 payment for eligible workers who start jobs in July to encourage unemployed Maine people to return to the workforce. The first-come, first-served program will utilize $10 million in Federal funding and could reach up to 7,500 Maine people.

The program comes as Maine’s economy continues to recover from the pandemic, with the state having added 11,200 jobs during the first quarter of 2021 and overall unemployment claims steadily declining. As employers across Maine seek workers, the program aims to accelerate the transition of unemployed Maine people back into the workforce and help businesses recover from pandemic-related business disruption. The program complements the Mills Administration’s ongoing work to provide COVID-19 vaccines, job development opportunities, and affordable child care to job seekers to ease the transition back into the workforce.

To be eligible, people must:

  1. Have received unemployment compensation for the week ending May 29, 2021;
  2. Accept a full-time job that pays less than $25 per hour and remain in the job for a period of at least eight consecutive weeks, and;
  3. Not receive unemployment compensation during the eight week period of employment.

The program begins tomorrow – June 15, 2021 – and applications will be accepted through July 25, 2021. Later this week, the Maine Department of Labor will launch an online portal on its website where businesses can confirm employees qualify and register their start dates. Once the employee has worked for eight weeks, the employer will provide documentation of the completion of the requirement and grant funds will be issued to the employer to be passed through to the employee.

The program comes after the Maine Department of Labor tightened work search requirements for unemployment insurance recipients on May 23, 2021, reinstating pre-pandemic requirements. People receiving unemployment are required to actively look for work and to accept positions for which they are reasonably qualified. A refusal to accept an offer of suitable work is grounds for disqualifying a person for benefits.

Megan Diver

Megan has worked in Maine politics for more than ten years and all of her professional career, having served in many roles for elected officials (including former Secretary of State Charlie Summers), in-house with the Maine Association of REALTORS®, legislative specialist at Pierce Atwood LLP providing lobbying services and support to Pierce Atwood’s government relations clients and most recently senior government relations specialist at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. Megan currently is the Vice President at the Maine Energy Marketers Association, utilizing her vast knowledge and legislative experience at the State House to represent MEMA on policies relating to the Association and its members.