Memorial Day is just around the corner. Created in the wake of the horrors of the Civil War as a time apart from the day-to-day routine to pause and honor the men and women who died in service, this day is important.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

However, falling as it does on the last Monday in May, in recent years Memorial Day has also come to be seen as the unofficial start of the summer season. For Maine, where we literally print “Vacationland” on our license plates, this is not insignificant.

It’s no secret that a lot of our economy is dependent upon summer visitors. In fact, according to the Maine Office of Tourism in 2017, “Tourism supports nearly 107,000 jobs in Maine. Household income generated through jobs supported by tourism was over $2.5 billion. Total taxes generated from tourism was nearly $600 million.”

This year … well, gosh. This year is looking tricky.

It should be a banner year. People are vaccinated (hurrah) and everyone wants out of the four walls they’ve been cooped up in for more than a year. Maine, with our healthy, outdoorsy, mountain-hiking, lake-paddling ways, is the obvious choice for families and individuals wanting to get away.

There’s just one small problem: No one has any staff.

OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration. Obviously, there are some summer workers in place. But not enough. According to a report out a few days ago from HospitalityMaine, we are down 16,000 seasonal workers for the coming summer – just in lodging and food!

Some of the shortfall is due to a lack of workers from overseas. Another part of the issue, though, is said to be part of a strange phenomenon of folks simply not wanting jobs. This is about more than just the summer that is about to be upon us.

I keep hearing that businesses all over Maine and all over the country can’t find any workers because the stimulus checks are so good no one wants to take a job. There’s not a lot to prove or disprove this, though. It is more word-of-mouth without any real data.

However, for the purposes of this conversation, let’s assume it is accurate. Let’s assume that the stimulus checks are so beneficial that the people receiving them opt out of working as a result.

In one measure, it’s hard to blame them. During the pandemic, the thing most needed was for people to stay home. In response, a lot of people lost their jobs. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to provide a safety net as we get back on our feet.

And, at the same time, we are now at the point where we need to regroup and get things back on track. There’s a lot to be done.

So I have a suggestion. It’s not new, I’ve posed this before in discussions on unemployment benefits, but I am re-treading it now for this conversation. I propose that we, as a caring society, continue to provide a fiscal safety net for those without gainful employment. It behooves all of us to have our neighbors housed, fed and able to access medical care.

In exchange, those receiving the support volunteer their time bettering the community by working at the food pantry, caring for animals at the humane center, planting trees in the parks, picking up litter from roadways or any other number of tasks our community needs to be a richer, more plentiful place for us to live.

We have all been in a place where we needed help. When that help arrives, we repay in what ways we can. Let’s support our fellow community members and support our community as well.

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