Thousands of Mainers Saved from Losing Unemployment Benefits 

Thousands of Mainers at risk of losing their financial life lines will now be able to hold on to their unemployment benefits. Last-minute action by U.S. lawmakers and the President is extending those benefits – but only for a bit longer.”We must get our debt problems under control and there’s no better time than now.”While one U.S. Senator from Kentucky held up a plan to extend unemployment benefits across the country, thousands of Mainers moved closer to an uncertain financial future. Adam Fisher, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Labor, says “We thought approximately 500 workers were going to be impacted by that delay immediately. These are workers that lost their jobs in late 2009 and would not be able to file for one of the extensions as a result of the program running out.”This week lawmakers finally gathered the support needed to keep the benefits alive.Fisher says it was just in time. “Had they not taken action quicker, approximately 7,000 people would have run out of benefits by the end of the month and then 28,000 by the end of July.”Fisher says unemployed workers were paid as soon as possible, in part because of fast action from the Labor Department, too. “We ramped up quickly so once that legislation did eventually get the President’s signature we were able to respond quickly. Anybody who had payments that were held up as a result, they’re getting paid this week.”But Fisher says the concern for unemployed Mainers isn’t quite over. Benefits are now set to expire April 5th, with hopes Congress will come up with a more permanent fix before then. Catherine Pegram, WABI TV5 News, Augusta.