Groups Call For Changes To Maine's Unemployment Insurance Program As COVID-19 Impacts Grow

May 6, 2020

Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman will appear before the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee Wednesday to talk about the state's efforts to get unemployment to Mainers who have lost income because of COVID-19.

In advance of that hearing, Maine Equal Justice and the Maine AFL-CIO have called on the state Labor Department to make immediate changes to get unemployment insurance to more Mainers.

Christine Hastedt is senior policy advisor with Maine Equal Justice. She says given the unprecedented situation the Labor Department is doing as well as could be expected, but it needs to do more.

"This was a program intended to quickly replace wages for people who have lost jobs and give them money to spend in the economy," she says. "When there are delays, as we’re seeing now, that makes people’s lives more difficult."

The organizations want the Labor Department to make more staffers available to talk to applicants on the phone and make it easier for people to file using mobile phones and check issues in their applications.

Hastedt also says the COVID-19 crisis is shedding a light on longstanding problems in the federal Unemployment Insurance Program, and that those need to be addressed.