Maine Program To Attract New Workers Has Few Takers

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s $1,500 bonus to attract new workers this summer during the pandemic hasn't been successful.

Only about 5% of the 7,500 people that the $10 million program could cover have been declared provisionally eligible, the Bangor Daily News reported. An extended deadline to file applications closes Friday.

The bonus for new employees who work at least eight weeks and meet other criteria equates to about two weeks of unemployment pay.

It may not have been enough to entice workers to give up benefits or to get overworked employers to handle the extra paperwork that the program entails, said Steve Hewins, executive director of the industry group HospitalityMaine.

New Hampshire has had a bit more success.

New Hampshire, which stopped the enhanced unemployment benefits in June, drew 700 applicants to its $1,000 return-to-work program in the first four weeks after it started on July 19. In contrast, Maine had attracted only 400 applicants since mid-June.

In other pandemic-related news:

THE NUMBERS

The surge of COVID-19 infections is continuing in Maine.

The state reported another 185 infections and one death on Friday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 105 new cases per day on Aug. 4 to 164 new cases per day on Aug. 18.

FIRE CHIEFS

The Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association is opposing Gov. Janet Mills’ mandate that health care workers in Maine get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We believe this rule has been instituted without input or feedback from the fire service and with little consideration of the unintended consequences,” President Darrell White wrote in a letter to Maine Emergency Medical Service.

The association says many EMS agencies in Maine are already dealing with staffing shortages and record numbers of calls for assistance and they are worried this mandate will cause workers to quit.

He noted that the short window gives people “only a few weeks” to make "life-changing decisions about their health, beliefs, and the future of their careers in EMS.”