Maine saw a slight drop in new unemployment claims last week as federal lawmakers expressed hope for a pre-election stimulus deal.
Mainers filed 2,370 jobless claims for the week ending Oct. 3, according to counts the Maine Department of Labor released on Thursday. Of those, 1,700 initial claims sought traditional state unemployment benefits while 670 initial claims were filed for federal aid that Congress approved in late March as part of a coronavirus-relief package.
That represents 2,150 Mainers filing initial job claims or reopening them last week. Mainers must first be denied state benefits before they can apply for them under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extends benefits to those who traditionally don’t qualify for them, such as the self-employed or independent contractors.
Mainers filed 52,150 applications last week for continued unemployment benefits. Of those, 22,300 claims came in for state unemployment, 15,900 for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, 13,000 for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 950 for extended state benefits.
That represents a slight decrease in continued jobless claims from the week before, when nearly 53,900 applications to continue receiving jobless benefits were filed.
Since March 15, state residents have received more than $1.59 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits from the Maine Department of Labor.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers is said to be working to pull together enough votes for another stimulus package. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said she was optimistic after meeting Wednesday with the more than 50 “rank and file” lawmakers, whom she said agreed to sign a statement in support of getting a stimulus bill done.