Nearly 3,000 new state unemployment insurance claims were filed last week as jobless Mainers await the outcome of a congressional COVID-19 stimulus package that would extend critical federal aid that is set to expire in days.

About 2,950 claims for state unemployment benefits were filed last week, the Maine Department of Labor reported Wednesday. It was the third week in a row that initial state jobless claims hovered around 3,000, the highest weekly totals since July.

Another 1,900 claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, a federal program available to those who do not qualify for state benefits. Most of those claims were filed by those who have exhausted other state and federal benefits, the department said.

Claims for unemployment aid in Maine typically increase in late fall and early winter as people are laid off from seasonal jobs in construction, accommodation and restaurants. The increased impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hospitality businesses may increase claims from that industry.

Roughly 44,800 continuing claims for state and federal aid were filed last week, the department said. Two-thirds of those claims were made under PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, both federal programs that will expire at the end of the month unless reauthorized by Congress. If the programs are not extended, this is the last week people using those programs can collect benefits.

A $900 billion, bipartisan relief bill would extend those programs through mid-March and add a $300-per-week supplemental payment for everyone collecting unemployment.

The bill passed with huge majorities in both chambers of Congress, but President Trump has yet to sign the bill and said he is dissatisfied with the package and would like amendments that include increasing household stimulus checks from $600 per person to $2,000 per person.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.