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Union Spokesperson: Expiration Of Federal Unemployment Benefits 'Disastrous' For Mainers

Virus Outbreak Maine Unemployment
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
A sign announces a coronavirus closure at a flower shop in Jay, Maine, Thursday, April 16, 2020.

The extra federal unemployment benefits, which were implemented in response to a widespread economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are expiring.

Andy O'Brien with the Maine AFL-CIO says the disappearance of those benefits will have a significant impact.

"It's gonna be disastrous for a lot of people in Maine, particularly older workers who have had a lot of trouble getting hired due to age discrimination," he says. "Some of them have a health condition that limits where they can work."

The expiring benefits included an unemployment compensation program for freelancers and contractors, and an additional $300 cash payment in each unemployment check.

O'Brien says the programs, which included payments to gig economy workers, helped a lot of Mainers maintain a stable situation.

"When you've got a stable living condition, you have an apartment, you have a place to live, it's much easier to reenter the workforce," he says. "Not to mention you need a car, so if you lose your vehicle because you can't make the payments, you can't get to work."

Meanwhile, businesses have argued that they cannot find enough people to work. Some businesses, such as fast food franchises in Bangor, have limited their services and closed indoor dining due to what they say is a lack of workers. Others have had to offer increased wages and benefits to attract workers back.

O'Brien says there's no evidence that removing benefits actually helps people get back into work.