Virus Outbreak Maine Daily Life

A sign announces the reopening of the Hot Spot Diner, May 18, 2020, in Wiscasset, Maine.

(The Center Square) – Maine had by far the largest drop in new unemployment claims in the nation, returning almost to pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Another 846 Maine residents filed for unemployment insurance in the week ending May 16, down 91 percent from the 10,386 who filed the previous week.

The week ending March 14, just before the shutdown order was imposed in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, Maine had 634 unemployment claims.

Nationally, another 2.4 million Americans filed for jobless benefits, bringing the total since mid-March to about 39 million. However, as states begin to reopen their economies, many of those who have filed should be returning to work.

California led all states with 246,000 unemployment filings. Washington state had the biggest jump with a 31 percent increase, and Maine had the biggest decline at 91 percent.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor is stepping up efforts to combat fraud in the unemployment program. States have been under pressure to process claims and deliver benefits quickly, which can lead to missteps.

“The integrity of the unemployment insurance system, including the new unemployment insurance programs under the CARES Act, is critical to ensuring temporary benefits are provided only to eligible claimants,” Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch said in a news release. “The Department of Labor will continue to help states quickly pay benefits to eligible claimants and ensure employers have access to the workforce they need to reopen, while protecting taxpayer dollars from fraud.”

The department offered a list of state hotlines for reporting fraud, and it issued a reminder to everyone involved in the labor system of their obligations to help prevent abuse of unemployment benefits.

“[C]laimants should understand their state’s requirements on accepting offers of suitable employment; employers should understand their obligation to report all instances of potential fraud, waste or abuse; employers and claimants should understand that refusing suitable work may cause suspension of benefits; and workforce partners should pivot to employee engagement, employer outreach and job referrals for the more than 33 million Americans who find themselves unemployed,” the department stated.

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.