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POLICY: Maine State Chamber Opposes UI Changes

June 11, 2021

URGENT ACTION NEEDED ON
PROBLEMATIC UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
REFORM LEGISLATION!

Maine’s business community is rallying together again – this time on troubling legislation that seeks to reform Maine’s unemployment insurance system without active input from Maine employers.

WE NEED YOUR HELP TODAY!

The Maine Senate has scheduled this bill for today!
Please contact your legislators immediately.

The following organizations are urging individual Maine employers
to contact their legislators TODAY and voice their concerns.

Associated Builders & Contractors - Maine Chapter

Associated General Contractors of Maine

Build 207

Hospitality Maine

Maine Aggregate Association

Maine Association of Broadcasters

Maine Association of Insurance Companies

Maine Auto Dealers Association

Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association

Maine Better Transportation Association

Maine Beverage Association

Maine Energy Marketers Association

Maine Forest Products Council

Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association

Maine Insurance Agents Association

Maine Jobs Council

Maine Motor Transport Association

Maine Sporting Camp Association

Maine Staffing Association

Maine State Chamber of Commerce

Maine Tourism Association

Manufacturers Association of Maine

NFIB Maine

Professional Logging Contractors of Maine

Retail Association of Maine

Retail Lumber Dealers Association of Maine

Ski Maine Association

 

DURING THE PAST 10 YEARS, MAINE EMPLOYERS PAID MORE THAN $1.36 BILLION INTO THE UNEMPLOYMENT TRUST FUND, AVERAGING $136 MILLION A YEAR. YOU DESERVE A VOICE!

Maine employers do not object to discussions about potential changes to the Maine unemployment insurance system. We do however object to being shut out and to our interests being dismissed. Legislation under consideration (LD 1564 was amended to include elements of LD 1571), would:

  • Increase the cost of unemployment insurance paid by employers;
  • Outsource some traditional Maine Department of Labor functions to private advocacy groups; and,
  • Offer little help to employers – in fact, postponed were proposals to make the UI program more effective in getting unemployed workers back to earning paychecks and to make work-share more beneficial to employees and employers.

 

PLEASE URGE YOUR LEGISLATORS TO RECOMMIT TO CARRYING-OVER UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE LEGISLATION TO 2022 AND TO UTILIZE THE STAKEHOLDER PROCESS.

MAINE’S BUSINESS COMMUNITY DESERVES A SEAT AT THE TABLE and must be involved in meaningful discussions on this and all UI proposals.

THE COST TO EMPLOYERS OF ANY CHANGES TO UI MUST BE CONSIDERED, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic impact on businesses across Maine with thousands of employees suddenly out of jobs.

 

Here are more details to help you voice your concerns to your legislators:

LD 1564 offers little help for employers…

  • LD 1564 is largely one-sided because employer representatives were left out of the drafting and amendment process.
  • Proposals were postponed for making the UI program more effective in getting unemployed workers back to earning paychecks.
  • Also postponed were proposals for making work-share more beneficial to employees and employers.

 

LD 1564 includes costly changes…

An estimated 55% of Maine businesses – primarily small businesses – were shut down a year ago, and thousands of workers were suddenly without jobs. 

  • LD 1564 contains 39 sections, including four that increase various benefits.
  • LD 1564 increases the cost of unemployment benefits by an estimated $2.3 million, to $9.6 million per year, which means an additional $11.5 to $48 million over a five-year period.
  • Includes a major public policy section (navigator section) that raises significant unanswered questions about the duties of public agencies versus the roles of private entities.
  • An infusion of nearly $300 million of federal pandemic funds by Governor Janet Mills – which employers very much appreciate – reduced but did not eliminate unemployment tax increases. For example, the benchmark “New Employer” rate increased from 1.86% in 2020 to 2.11% in 2021 – the highest the rate has been since 2015 – and tax rates are expected to increase in 2022 even without LD 1564.

 

A Balanced Process Matters!

  • Employers do not object to discussions about potential changes to the Maine unemployment insurance system, but we do object to being shut out and to our interests being dismissed.
  • Employers paid more than $1.36 billion into the Unemployment Trust Fund during the past 10 years, averaging $136 million a year. 
  • Employers were not meaningfully included in being consulted on LD 1564 or given an opportunity to comment before decisions were made on the bill or the substitute amendment.

 

Recommit to Using the Stakeholder Process

  • After only one substantive work session, LD 1564 should be sent back to the Labor and Housing Committee and carried over to 2022, rather than muscling through a one-sided, flawed bill within the next few weeks.
  • Let labor officials, worker advocates and business representatives meet over the interim to discuss provisions proposed in LD 1564 and that were proposed in LD 1571, as well as consider other proposals that stakeholders bring to the table.
  • Nearly every provision of LD 1564 raises public policy questions for employers.  Nearly every provision entails a new or expanded cost to employers.

 

THANK YOU FOR TAKING ACTION AND CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY
TO VOICE YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT THIS ONE-SIDED, FLAWED PROPOSAL!

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