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Relief for working-class Mainers

One year ago, I became one of millions of Americans who were thrown out of work due to the pandemic. Over the past year, I have become intimately familiar with countless struggling Mainers in my work as a volunteer moderator in the Maine AFL-CIO’s Unemployment Assistance Group.

For those who haven’t had to struggle with chronic unemployment during an economic crisis, it’s important to understand how difficult it can be to find full-time work that pays the bills. Many of our members have applied for hundreds of jobs, but have not had a call back. Many of the positions advertised are low-wage, part-time jobs that don’t pay enough to support a family and our broken unemployment system doesn’t provide enough support for people who only work part time, but want to work full time.

Over the past year, our members have suffered from one crisis to another as enhanced unemployment benefits have repeatedly expired due to inaction by Congress. People in our group have lost their homes, been evicted from their apartments and been forced to sell their belongings. Some have even resorted to selling plasma to survive. They then watch as members of Congress dither over whether to give them a few scraps to help feed their families.

Currently, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would extend unemployment to help us all weather this storm. I urge Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins to immediately pass this extension to give working-class Mainers desperately needed relief until this crisis.

Suzanne Young

Winterport

Online voter registration

As a college student here in Maine, I believe that we should adopt online voter registration in our state. Online voter registration (OVR) makes registering to vote more accessible to younger voters, maintains the safety and security of the voter registration process and may even save taxpayer money.

Online voter registration would allow eligible Mainers to register to vote using a secure website designed by the Secretary of State’s office. Voter information would then be encrypted and uploaded directly to the state voter file, thus making sure that private information stays private.

This online system for voter registration not only serves as a safe and secure way to register to vote, but can also save state money by cutting down on the printing and mailing costs associated with the current paper registration forms (which can be lost or damaged).

41 states have already adopted OVR to make voter registration more accessible, secure, and efficient. Online voter registration is a safe, cost-effective way to reach the next generation of Maine’s voters, all while maintaining election integrity and security. I encourage all our elected officials to pass online voter registration here in Maine.

Lutie Brown

Waterville

Open schools safely

As a school board member for RSU 38, Maranacook Area Schools, I applaud Sen. Susan Collins for her continued efforts to push for schools across the country to reopen as safely and quickly as possible. I have seen the detrimental effects the last year of remote learning has had on our students, and the undue stress that it puts on working families first hand, which is why I’ve pushed at the local level to return to regular in-class instruction five days a week.

When schools first shut down a year ago, it was supposed to be a temporary measure taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our school systems. Nobody ever imagined that one year later, students across our nation would remain home, long after parents had to return to work. As a result of this prolonged closure, our students have missed out on countless opportunities and it’s been well demonstrated that many children have fallen behind.

You’re only a kid once, and this last year of isolation is a year they will never get back. Public health experts are increasingly coming to the conclusion that the damage that is being done to our childrens’ psyche and education far exceeds the risk of returning to school, which is why I thank Collins for continuing to push for a safe and full reopening of our schools.

Shawn Roderick

Readfield