By Associated Press - Thursday, April 22, 2021

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine’s two U.S. senators said the coronavirus pandemic has provided evidence that the state’s unemployment system needs to be modernized.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King said Wednesday the federal government is giving the Maine Department of Labor more than $380,000 toward that effort. They said the money will promote and improve the labor department’s short time compensation program, which is designed to allow workers to receive partial unemployment benefits if their employer reduces their hours to avoid layoffs.

The labor department is expected to use the money to raise awareness of the program and increase participation in it, the senators said. They said the money will also help streamline reporting by employers and workers to the Maine Bureau of Unemployment Compensation.

Collins and King said in a statement said it is “crucial that we maintain the safety net that supports individuals whose hours have been reduced through no fault of their own.”

In other pandemic news in Maine:



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THE NUMBERS

The number of cases of coronavirus continued to trend up in Maine.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 310.43 new cases per day on April 6 to 441.57 new cases per day on April 20. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 310.43 new cases per day on April 6 to 441.57 new cases per day on April 20.

The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the pandemic has infected more than 58,000 people in the state and killed 769.

Slightly more than 40% of the population of the state has received its final dose of coronavirus vaccine, Maine CDC reported Thursday.

The state has used a mobile vaccination unit in Windham to provide walk-up vaccine appointments this week. More walk-up options could be available in the future, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said.

“The experience we’ve seen in Windham this week says to me that it’s a model that meets the needs of people where they are,” Shah said.

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HATE CRIMES ACT

Collins also said Wednesday that she and Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii had reached an agreement about the language of a proposal designed to stop hate crimes in the era of coronavirus. The U.S. Senate passed the measure on Thursday.

Hirono said before the Senate vote that the new language would “broaden support for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act while retaining the bill’s core purpose to combat anti-Asian hate.”

The proposal stated that there were more than 3,000 reported cases of anti-Asian discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021. The measure is designed to expedite review of hate crimes at the U.S. Department of Justice. It would also provide support for local law enforcement in response to the thousands of incidents.

Maine’s other senator, independent Sen. Angus King, said he also supported the passage of the act.

“This increase in racially-motivated violence is unacceptable and un-American, and I’m proud to stand alongside an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate to address this horrific behavior,” he said after the Senate vote.

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