The state saw new unemployment claims rise last week as tens of thousands of Mainers face a potential loss of benefits before the end of the year.
Mainers filed 2,800 claims for new jobless benefits or to reopen a claim for the week that ended Nov. 21, according to Maine Department of Labor data released Thursday. It was up from 2,550 the week before.
Additionally, 11,800 claims were filed for continued benefits, the same as the prior week. Another 13,500 were filed for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, down from 13,700 the previous week, and 2,400 were filed for the state’s Extended Benefits program, up slightly from 2,200 the week before.
Since March 15, Mainers have received more than $1.68 billion in federal and state jobless benefits, according to the Maine Department of Labor. The state paid out nearly $74 million in all of 2019.
Against the backdrop of escalating virus transmission, nearly 30,000 jobless Mainers are set to lose benefits when federal programs expire on Dec. 26, while up to 6,000 could lose state benefits before the end of the year. For many Maine families, those benefits have been a lifeline amid the economic upheaval wrought by the pandemic.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently called on Congress to pass additional pandemic relief to help businesses and workers by the end of the year, saying businesses have done their part to keep employees and customers safe and Congress must do its part to help businesses survive.
“Maine deserves better than what is currently being offered from policymakers in Washington,” Neil Bradley, a vice president at the national chamber, said in a statement.
The chamber said 22 percent of Mainers expect to lose employment income in the next month and 3.8 percent are either not current on their rent or mortgage or have little confidence they can make next month’s payment. While 80 percent of Maine small businesses received assistance through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, nearly all have exhausted that funding and nearly 25 percent expect to need more financial help in the next six months.
Nationally, seasonally adjusted initial claims rose by 30,000 to 778,000 over the previous week that ended on Nov. 14. according to data released early Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.