Two pieces of legislation regarding unemployment insurance benefits have been proposed in Maine with less than approving responses from their governor. The exemption under L.D. 700, “An Act to Give Flexibility to Employees and Employers for Temporary Layoffs”, is currently available in several states under specific circumstances. Legislators created this bill with the intent of protecting employers and employees alike in situations where an employee’s layoff from a job is temporary, with their return to the same position at some point that year. The legislation loosens the requirements for filing job search histories in this particular situation. A timeline of six weeks was set as appropriate for these seasonal-type of workers.
Governor Paul LePage has vetoed the bill, calling it “akin to allowing wage collusion among employers to keep wages low.” He continued to express his disdain for a bill that he claims protects employees from having to search for a job and allowing them to settle and be entitled to benefits.
Rep. Ryan Fecteau argues the legislation would be advantageous to both Maine employers and employees in situations of temporary business slowdowns. For an employer needing an available workforce when business picks back up, avoiding the need to seek out and retrain a new staff saves time and money, growing the local economy.
The second piece of legislation (L.D. 1770) proposed was “An Act to Revise Laws Regarding Unemployment That Were Amended of Affected by Recently Enacted Legislation.” The bill included a handful of amendments such as allowing claimants other filing methods for work searches, filling vacant DOL positions, and the posting of vacant positions. An additional portion of the bill dealt with the way in which employers pay into the system. The bill demands proper attention towards the ReEmployME filing concerns.
ReEmployME, Maine’s new unemployment insurance filing system has had a less than smooth rollout. Many claimants have reported being unable to receive benefits for weeks or months at a time, due to being locked out of the online system. The ordeal has turned controversial with the labor department denying problems, as well as reports of alleged illegal acts such as claimant complaints going missing.
LePage vetoed this bill as well, calling it an “ignorant intervention” that would result in “reduced funding to the unemployment system”. The governor argues the forceful nature of filling positions regardless of claim volume will lead to poor efficiency measures that will harm Maine for having excessively high costs per claim, decreasing funding.