Maine legislators and advocates are supporting a new bill to reform the state’s unemployment system, which was plagued with delays and technical errors after being overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of claims during the pandemic.

Some business and tourism groups opposed the legislation and said employers should have more input before the state makes major changes to its unemployment system.

Two Republican legislators presented bills that would tie the duration of unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate.

Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, L.D. 1571, says the pandemic exposed long-standing issues with the state’s unemployment system, including that only a quarter of eligible Mainers were able to receive benefits in recent years.

He says the proposed legislation would require the Department of Labor to work towards increasing that number, and would also create the new navigator program to assist laid-off workers.

Another bill from the Maine Department of Labor would expand partial unemployment benefits, and would also allow people forced to leave their job because of child or elder care issues to receive 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.