Claims for jobless benefits in Maine remained almost unchanged in the first week of September as tens of thousands of residents continued to be out of work six months after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the state’s economy.

Roughly 66,000 Mainers filed for continued state and federal jobless claims last week, the Maine Department of Labor reported Thursday. That number was down slightly from about 67,500 workers the previous week.

Another 1,500 Mainers filed new claims for unemployment benefits, filing a total of 2,800 state and federal benefit claims. The number of claims exceeds the number of claimants because of overlap between state and federal jobless aid programs. The previous week, about 1,300 Mainers filed 3,200 initial claims.

The first week in September was the 25th consecutive week in which the state received more than 1,000 initial unemployment claims.

Between March 15 and Sept. 5, the Maine Department of Labor says it paid out over $1.44 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, handling roughly 184,400 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 89,500 initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. There have been over 2.3 million weekly certifications filed.

Maine will begin paying an additional, $300-per-week enhanced federal benefit to eligible claimants “in the coming days,” the department said Thursday.

The benefit, which is intended to replace a $600-per-week benefit that expired at the end of July, will be paid to those who collect at least $100 a week in jobless benefits and lost their jobs or had hours cut as a direct result of the pandemic.

The Lost Wages Assistance program, authorized by a presidential executive action, is funded with $44 billion in disaster relief funds. Payments will be made retroactive to Aug. 1. It is estimated the funding will last a little more than a month.

Nationally, the number of unemployment claims filed also remained roughly unchanged from the previous week at 884,000, a sign that unemployment is stuck at a historically high level six months after the pandemic flattened the economy.

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