More than 2,000 individuals in Maine sought unemployment benefits in the last week of November, an indication of the economic pain felt by many across the country.

About 1,900 claims were filed for state unemployment benefits and 700 claims were filed for federal programs, according to the Maine Department of Labor. About 2,300 individuals filed new claims or reopened a claim, the department reported.

At least 2,000 individuals per week have filed new claims per week since mid-November.

Nearly 40,000 claims were filed for weekly benefits under state and federal programs. The overwhelming majority of those claims – 70 percent – were filed under two federal programs that will expire at the end of the year.

About 15,400 weekly certifications were filed under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for workers not eligible for state aid, and 12,700 claims were made for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a program that extends benefits for 13 weeks after claimants exhaust their initial state and federal aid.

Both those programs, authorized under the CARES Act in March, are due to expire on Dec. 26 unless Congress and the White House reauthorize them.


The Department of Labor estimates 35,000 people in the state will lose benefits when the programs expire. Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman urged Maine’s Congressional delegation to take quick action to shore up federal unemployment programs and prevent further hardship for out-of-work Mainers.

“Over the last nine months I have seen first-hand the strain on people who suddenly lost their job,” Fortman wrote.

“None of us could have guessed how long the COVID-19 crisis would last, but we are now coming up against the time when these same people are going to suddenly lose their unemployment benefits. This second round of financial loss will be devastating for Maine people and the Maine economy.”

Fortman said Congress should extend the three federal unemployment programs created by the CARES Act and provide additional support to state unemployment trust funds.

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