Mainers who have found themselves without work during the coronavirus pandemic must now show the state they are actively looking for a job to continue receiving jobless benefits.
That announcement comes as nearly 80,000 Mainers remain jobless amid an unprecedented economic crisis sparked by the pandemic. But not all out-of-work Mainers will need to comply with that requirement.
“While our economy continues to gradually reopen and more people are now able to return to work, we know that many families are still grappling with the unique economic hardships caused by COVID-19,” Maine’s labor commissioner, Laura Fortman, said in a Friday statement. “It is our hope that by broadening the number of eligible work search activities Maine people will have maximum opportunities to safely seek work while maintaining their benefits and the Department will continue to assess additional ways to support unemployed Mainers.”
Those Mainers who are permanently separated from their employers must show they have searched for a new job this week when they file to renew their benefits starting Aug. 16, according to the Maine Department of Labor.
That includes attending a job fair hosted by a CareerCenter, applying and interviewing for jobs, contacting employers to see if they are hiring, or participating in job training or skills development, among other activities.
Mainers who aren’t working because of concerns related to the coronavirus but remain connected to their employer and those who are self-employed and plan to continue remaining self-employed won’t be required to show they have been actively looking for work, according to the Department of Labor.
That will remain in effect until 30 days after Gov. Janet Mills’ civil state of emergency declaration ends. Mills extended her civil state of emergency through Sept. 4, meaning that requirement will be suspended until Oct. 3.
New weekly jobless claims have been falling for several weeks after reaching a dizzying high of 30,899 in early April. Mainers have filed more than 261,100 jobless claims since March 15.
Since March 15, Mainers have received $1.32 billion in jobless benefits, according to the Department of Labor. It paid out nearly $74 million in all of 2019.