STATEWIDE — Maine state officials have been trying to get Mainers back to work as staffing shortages continue.
“It’s not just that it provides poor service in some cases to visitors, but it also puts a lot of stress on the employees that are working,” said Steve Hewins, executive director of HospitalityMaine Education Foundation.
The Maine Department of Labor launched the Back-to-Work program offering $1,500 to eligible employees.
In a statement to ABC 7 and Fox 22, an official with the Department of Labor said, “As of August 20, 437 employers are participating in the program with the Department finding more than 450 employees provisionally eligible.”
That means if they complete at least eight weeks at their new job, and meet all other requirements, they will receive the funding.
However, Hewins said in places this program made a difference, but overall not as much as they had hoped.
“Particularly with many restaurants closing days of the week, shortening their hours, some iconic places that are no longer serving breakfast as an example, or closing Sunday and Monday when they would never do that in past years,” he said.
The statement from the Department of Labor said, “Maine added 13,700 jobs so far in 2021 and overall unemployment claims are steadily declining. This program, which complements our other workforce programs, gave businesses one more tool to help attract new hires.”
Even with this, Hewins said there is a new question being raised.
“What are we going to do going forward?” he said. “It can’t be what we’re doing for the past century.”
Hewins said he’s looking at the long-term plan of the industry. HospitalityMaine wants to change the way it trains, educates and sources new employees.
The goal is to grow and support workers in an industry Hewins said is one that helps people progress in life.
“If we don’t fix our operations and make it more accommodating, more successful, for our employees then we’re just going to continue the same situation every year,” Hewins said. “We can’t afford to do that anymore.”