Maine is bringing back a work search requirement for people collecting unemployment benefits, as the state’s labor market continues to improve.
Beginning May 23, individuals receiving jobless benefits will be required to actively look for work and accept positions for which they are “reasonably qualified,” the state Department of Labor said. A refusal to accept a job offer will be “grounds for disqualifying a person for benefits.”
“Thousands of Maine people lost their jobs during the pandemic, through no fault of their own,” Laura Fortman, commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, said in a statement. “Now it is our goal to get them back to work.”
Fortman said with COVID-19 vaccines more widely available, and “with businesses reopening and in need of help — especially with the busy tourism season approaching, we want people to rejoin the workforce, earn a living and aid in our state’s economic recovery.”
Maine’s work search requirements were relaxed last year amid a wave of layoffs and unemployment claims fueled by government-mandated business closures in response to the pandemic.
The state has distributed more than $2.1 billion in state and federal jobless benefits to about 370,000 jobless workers during the pandemic, according to state data.
In March, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.8%, which is down from a high of 9.1% last April.
Last week, Maine reported 1,335 new applications for state jobless benefits were filed for the week that ended May 1 — a decline of 354 claims from the previous week.
Jobless workers in Maine and elsewhere have been buoyed by a $1.9 trillion relief bill, signed by President Joe Biden in March, that extended federal pandemic relief programs until September, including the $300 per week federal benefit.
Fortman pointed out that many people receiving unemployment benefits can go back to work part-time and still receive the $300 in weekly federally backed jobless benefits.
Employers have complained that generous unemployment benefits have given some laid-off workers more income from federal and state payments than they normally make on the job, which has made it harder to bring those people back to work.
The labor department said it is asking employers to report workers who have refused to return to their jobs and will “determine whether the individual is receiving unemployment benefits, and, if so, determine whether they should remain eligible.”
The state also plans to host several job fairs in coming weeks to help employers find more workers and fill job vacancies.
This article was originally posted on Maine brings back work search requirement for jobless benefits