June 8, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2017
Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009
Adjustments required by record-low volume of unemployment claims
AUGUSTA—The Maine Department of Labor announces that the state’s participation in the federally funded Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) program, a joint offering of the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation and the Bureau of Employment Services, will be placed on hiatus. Up to ten employees of the Bureau of Employment Services, located mainly in the agency’s CareerCenters, will be laid off as a result.
“RESEA is a successful program because it helps people on unemployment get back to work earlier, but the current funding model is not flexible for low-unemployment states,” said Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “After discussions with USDOL, Maine has decided to place the program on hold while the federal government looks at ways to modify the requirements of the program for states with a low volume of unemployment claimants. Maine will still provide job search services for unemployment claimants using alternative resources.”
Under RESEA, individuals filing for unemployment and who meet the criteria for “most likely to exhaust” all 26 weeks of benefits or who are separating veterans attend targeted workshops to improve their resumes and job-search strategies. Attendance is mandatory and benefits are denied for non-participation. Workshops are held in CareerCenters around the state.
The federal grant reimburses the state for each unemployment claimant who attends the workshop and a follow-up counseling session. The RESEA grant provides support for a dedicated statewide team to conduct the workshops and counseling sessions.
With the current volume of unemployment claims—at a 32-year low—the department does not have enough eligible RESEA participants to ensure that the reimbursement from the RESEA grant would pay for those dedicated employees. In February, RESEA participation was 47 percent below what was required and in April it was 23 percent lower; therefore, the determination was made that the department cannot meet the terms of the grant for this current federal fiscal year.
Paquette added, “Other states are having similar discussions with USDOL, but Maine is the first to take this step officially. Just as states need flexibility and support for times of high unemployment, we need a different type of flexibility when we enter times of what some may consider ‘full employment.’”
“We will continue to provide job-search assistance to individuals on unemployment through the Worker Profiling and Reemployment Services (WPRS) program in all of our CareerCenters,” stated the Commissioner. “We have the capacity with our remaining CareerCenter consultants to provide these services, and we will continue to develop alternative delivery methods including using technology to provide workshops in multiple locations and via mobile devices.”
When USDOL issues the 2018 grant, the department will review its requirements, the volume of claims at that time, and any changes the federal government might make for states with low unemployment rates, and then make a determination as to whether the state can once again participate. The department does anticipate participating when the volume of claims rises due to a change in economic conditions.
The affected staff members have attended a Rapid Response session and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement with recall rights up to three years. The department’s goal, as in any layoff, is to connect these workers with jobs inside or outside state government as soon as possible.
The program will be phased out over the next several weeks. Unemployment claimants selected for the RESEA program during this period are still required to participate.
The Department of Labor administers Maine’s unemployment insurance system, helps ensure the safety of employees and provides workforce development leadership and vocational rehabilitation services throughout the state. The department focuses on connecting Mainers to jobs and helping businesses create jobs through strengthening our workforce development system, improving outreach to businesses and clarifying employment regulations.