BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) — A Maine program that lets state employers reduce worker hours instead of laying workers off entirely has been a "phenomenal tool" during the pandemic, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said Tuesday.
The Workshare Program was used only by one or two employers before the pandemic hit in 2020 but that number has grown to more than 240, Gov. Janet Mills said. The programs prevented 3,044 layoffs, she said.
“That is more than 3,000 people in Maine who were able to keep their jobs and keep going to work," she said.
The program lets employers voluntarily reduce hours to avoid layoffs while employees collect partial unemployment benefits.
The program prevents downsizing and helps keep workers connected to their jobs, the governor’s office said. It also helps them maintain their job skills, the office said. It was supported by a $382,579 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to strengthen and promote the program.
"Not only is work sharing a phenomenal tool for employers to retain their experienced workforce, but it is a life saver for workers," Walsh said.
Mills and Walsh attended a roundtable along with Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman and several businesses including L.L. Bean, American Roots and Darlings at Bowdoin College.
Walsh and Mills both have long histories with the Democratic Party in New England as Walsh was mayor of Boston before becoming labor secretary.