FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DATE: July 31, 2020
16 COUNTIES COALITION PARTNERS WITH LOCAL ARTIST FOR DIGITAL ACTION CALLING ON SUSAN COLLINS TO EXTEND UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE THAT IS KEEPING MAINERS OUT OF POVERTY
The Action Included a Digital Presentation Projected on the Portland Pump Station to Raise Awareness About What Is at Stake for Mainers if the $600/Week Unemployment Insurance Is Allowed to Expire
Portland, MAINE — Yesterday, 16 Counties Coalition partnered with local projection artist Tina Marie Davidson for a digital action to raise awareness about what is at stake for everyday Mainers if the $600 a-week unemployment insurance is not extended.
During the action, a digital presentation put together by 16 Counties Coalition was projected by Davidson onto the Pump Station on Fore Street in Portland. The presentation consisted of facts about the economic benefits the income from unemployment insurance has provided to Maine’s economy, and quotes from Mainers illustrating how unemployment insurance is helping them make ends meet during the pandemic and how they will be hurt if that income is cut:
“If they take away this $600 weekly expanded benefit there are so many families that will be homeless. I will be homeless. How am I going to take care of my three kids? How am I going to keep a smile on their faces? What am I going to do?” — Floyd Pope, Sanford
“The extra $600 a week is the difference between being able to afford our daily living expenses and staying in our house. Between losing my shipbuilder husband’s income and health insurance due to the strike at BIW and my own income due to schools closing down, the $600 is holding us together.” — Jennifer Frost, Farmingdale
“I can tell you that the vast majority of people collecting this benefit would prefer to be working. I’ve worked hard all of my life in Maine since I was 16. We need our senators to fight for us, to fight for my daughter Raelynn so that she doesn’t lose her home.” — Heather Finley, Auburn
“Without the enhanced benefit, I would not be able to afford to pay for child care for my daughter. After I pay my bills, not including gas and groceries, I only have $50 at the end of the month for everything else.”— Jill Shepherd, Topsham
“I’m a mom of four children and I’ve been out of work since the pandemic hit and only bringing in $172 a week in unemployment, I don’t know how I will survive. This extra $600 has been keeping us afloat.” — Anna Limeburner, Bangor
Photos of the projection are available here.
Mainers have called on Senator Susan Collins to reject the legislation proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans that would cut unemployment insurance which would reduce the income tens of thousands of Maine families are relying on to make ends meet during the pandemic, by $400 a week. A report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates indicates this move could hurt 182,000 Mainers — including 46,000 children, and cost the state an additional 18,000 jobs. Maine Senator Angus King estimated that the loss of income could cost the state $30 million dollars a week. Collins has thus far refused to push for the bipartisan House bill and has expressed skepticism about extending unemployment income, saying it doesn’t “make sense.”
In addition to hurting Maine families that continue to struggle as the pandemic continues, recent reports have also illustrated how loss of unemployment income will ripple through Maine’s broader economy, showing that “If that federal money were stopped, it would mean less money spent in grocery stores or getting takeout or more people not being able to afford rent.”
Senator Collins has claimed employers are reporting the $600 a-week- unemployment income is hurting their ability to retain and hire employees, yet a recent survey shows that over 80% of small business owners who responded said the unemployment income had no impact on retention or hiring. Lastly, a recent study by economists at Yale found “no evidence that the enhanced jobless benefits Congress authorized in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic reduced employment.”
About the 16 Counties Coalition
The 16 Counties Coalition is a year-long grassroots advocacy campaign aimed at amplifying the voices of families and working Mainers and encouraging Senator Susan Collins to vote in favor of the people she was elected to represent and defend. The campaign will mobilize members through small- and large-scale events, through digital action, and paid television, radio, and digital ads.
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