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.