The coronavirus has impacted our families, communities and state in many different ways. I know that these are tough and trying times. Businesses, government and communities are taking this very seriously and working to act swiftly to support Mainers during this period.

Sen. Susan Deschambault Courtesy photo

It can sometimes feel like there is an information overload with all there is to know about the coronavirus, so I want to take this opportunity to focus on specific information that will help Maine’s small businesses and workers.

For those who have been laid off or are out of work because of the coronavirus, there are several changes passed by the Legislature that the Maine Department of Labor has adopted to help workers weather this pandemic.

People who have been laid off because of the coronavirus’ impact on their business can apply for unemployment and have no waiting period to start receiving benefits as soon as they have been approved. Due to the system overload with many more people applying for unemployment than previously anticipated, there may be a processing delay, so please be aware of that and be patient.

If a worker has not been laid off, but is experiencing reduced work hours, they may still be eligible for unemployment insurance and should apply.

In our part of York County, we have a lot of young people. Students who attend the University of New England, University of Maine, or another college, may qualify for unemployment insurance, according to a call I had with Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman.

If you had an off-campus job before your school closed, you may be eligible to apply for unemployment in the state where you worked. If you are receiving a financial aid package that includes a work-study job, you may not qualify you for unemployment, but please check with your school. If you had a summer job or worked somewhere during school breaks, you may be eligible for unemployment.

Remember, to apply for unemployment insurance, you need to have your social security number, information about your employment history for the past 18 months, and you have to set up an account through the system.

The easiest way to file a claim is through this link: https://reemployme.maine.gov/. The Department of Labor recommends that filing online, if possible, because of the sharp increase in cases. If you are experiencing difficulties with your account, please reach out to https://www.mainecareercenter.gov/ and use the live chat service to resolve your problem. If you have other questions about unemployment issues, go to https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/.

There are also programs in place to help small businesses stay afloat during this uncertain time.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development recommends that you reach out to your financial institution for business advice and to apply for a personalized loan, if necessary. Another option is to apply for a U.S. Small Business Association Economic Injury Disaster Loan. If you’re not sure what path is best for you and your business, you can reach out to Maine’s Small Business Development Association — they offer free, confidential advice to Maine business owners.

From Kittery to Kennebunk, beaches have been closed in southern Maine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dan King photo

For more information, email [email protected]

If you have general questions related to the coronavirus, please check the Maine Center for Disease Control’s website at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/airborne/coronavirus.shtml. You can also get information about COVID-19, and answers to questions about housing, employment, access to food and meeting other essential needs, by calling United Way’s 211 number.

As I have mentioned in a previous column, 211 is a great resource for people who have questions about getting help and don’t know where to turn.

Even though these times are tough, I know that our communities are resilient. People are coming together to support each other and to support those in need. I am proud of the many stories I hear from friends, see on social media, or read in the news about folks who have stepped up to help during this time.

As always, please reach out to my office at 207-287-1515 or through email at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

State Senator Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman.

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