Release: Maine Policy Institute Statement on ‘Back to Work’ Program



June 14, 2021
Contact: Jacob Posik
Director of Communications
Office: 207.321.2550

Maine Policy Institute Statement on Maine’s New
‘Back to Work’ Program 

PORTLAND, Maine – Maine Policy Institute CEO Matthew Gagnon issued the following statement Monday in response to the “Back to Work” program announced today by Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL):

“Maine Policy Institute welcomes Governor Mills’ ‘Back to Work’ program, as something like it is sorely needed to restore Maine’s labor force to pre-pandemic levels. Maine’s unemployment rate today is 4.8%, nearly 2% higher than before the pandemic.

“As noted in MDOL’s May 21 release on April Workforce Conditions in Maine, approximately 28,300 Mainers have left the labor force since February 2020. If labor force participation in April 2021 was as high as it was in February 2020, the number of unemployed Mainers would be 28,300 higher and the state’s unemployment rate would be 8.7%. It’s worth noting that peak pandemic unemployment in Maine was 9.1% in April 2020. 

“Maine desperately needs to restore workforce participation to pre-pandemic levels. Job creators, particularly those in the tourism and hospitality sectors, are struggling to find workers to fill current openings and many have reduced their operations because of it. Our economy will continue to be held back until this issue is addressed, and a back to work incentive like those being offered in other states is a great way to incentivize a return to the labor force.

“However, we encourage Governor Mills to follow in the footsteps of her counterparts in other states and opt out of the federally enhanced unemployment benefits that do not expire until September 4. The ‘Back to Work’ program announced today is a tacit acknowledgement that federal pandemic unemployment benefits are negatively impacting the state’s labor force. This federal program will continue to work against Maine’s economy until we end our participation entirely.”

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Maine Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts detailed and timely research to educate the public, the media, and lawmakers about public policy solutions that advance economic freedom and individual liberty in Maine. Learn more about our work at