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Holidays Looking Grim for Thousands of Maine's Unemployed

November 22, 2010

AUGUSTA, Maine - The measure that would have extended unemployment benefits for approximately 21,000 job-seeking Mainers was shot down last week by the U.S. House of Representatives - just in time for the holidays. The extended benefits, which would have covered the unemployed through February, are now set to expire December 1.

Sarah Bigney, organizer for the Maine AFL-CIO, says the stakes are high, especially with the added cost of heat during the winter months.

"This is a lifeline for a lot of people, this is money that's being pumped into our economy, folks are spending it, and it's getting cold, and it's the holiday season, and so this is going to mean a really tough time for people if Congress does not act by the 30th."

Bigney says that, even though Maine's unemployment rate has fallen to just under eight percent over the last few months, the state's most rural areas are still struggling the hardest. She says the figures don't always tell the whole story.

"A lot of folks are trying to go back to school to get retrained. A lot of our job loss has been in the manufacturing sector, and so folks are trying to get retrained for a new career, but that takes time. You know, folks have been looking for work, and there just aren't jobs out there."

Many Republicans who voted down the measure cited the cost to taxpayers as the primary reason. Many economists believe extending unemployment benefits to the jobless will help the economy.

It is likely that this bill will come up again before Congress leaves for its Thanksgiving break.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - ME