Category Archives: Economy

Maine jobless rate stays at a historic low as more look for work | Bangor Daily News

Dashboard of unemployment

Maine’s jobless rate remained below 4 percent in July, marking the second longest period at that level in more than four decades.

The Maine Department of Labor reported the preliminary estimate of Maine’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in July, up slightly from June and down from 4 percent one year earlier.

The slight uptick in Maine’s unemployment rate comes from a new diversion in the estimate of people looking for work and those with jobs, changes that could be due to the way those estimates are made and adjusted.

The latest figures estimate a dip in the number of employed people, while the estimate of the people looking for work has continued to grow. The unemployment rate is the share of those active job seekers who haven’t found work.

Read the rest of the story.

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Portland rolls out new business center for immigrant entrepreneurs | MaineBiz

By Renee Cordese

As of this week, immigrant entrepreneurs in Portland have a modern workspace and business incubator at their disposal downtown.

The nonprofit Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, at 24 Preble St., officially opened its doors on Monday at a packed ribbon-cutting event attended by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Portland City Council member Pious Ali, the first African-born Muslim American elected to public office in Maine.

“After three years of hard work, the dream has finally become a reality,” said Damas Rugaba, an immigrant from Rwanda who came up with the idea for the center three years ago with Alain Nahimana, who hails from Burundi and serves as the center’s interim executive director.

Rugaba said the goal was to create a place where people could collaborate and share resources they would otherwise not be able to afford.

Besides acting as a business hub, the center plans to connect entrepreneurs with mentors and lending institutions to help them finance the path to citizenship, and offer English lessons in a digital language laboratory.

The center is being financed by grants from the Maine Community Foundation through its Broad Reach Fund, more than a dozen corporate sponsors including Coffee By Design and cPort Credit Union, and individual donors (all of whom are listed on the center’s website).

Read the rest of this story.

Lipstick on a Health Bill | The New York Times

Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, got straight to the point in describing the new Senate health care bill: “Still deep cuts to Medicaid in Senate bill. Will vote no,” she tweeted yesterday. “Ready to work w/ GOP & Dem colleagues to fix flaws in ACA.”

Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican and another potential swing vote, was less straightforward. “I opposed the last draft of the Senate health proposal because I had concerns about the measure’s Medicaid policies,” Portman said in a statement. Later, he followed up saying that he was undecided about whether he would support this bill.

Here’s the problem for Portman: Collins is right. The Medicaid policies are virtually identical between the revised Senate bill and the previous bill. If Portman opposed the last bill because of how it would harm Medicaid recipients — and he did — he would logically need to oppose this one, too.

Read the rest of this commentary.

As Feds Move Away From Climate Change, Maine and New England Consider Stronger CO2 Caps | Maine Public

While the federal government pulls back from global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, the New England states are considering more aggressive curbs on power plant carbon emissions.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is a market-based cap-and-trade program that sets limits on carbon-dioxide emissions in nine states, including all of New England. Power generators can buy and sell emission allowances under the program — which can give a financial boost to cleaner sources such as wind or hydro plants. So far RGGI’s allowance auctions have raised more than $2.5 billion, with the proceeds flowing to the states, and most of them investing heavily in energy efficiency efforts.

“All the evidence points to the fact that RGGI’s working well, it’s been a great success since its inception,” says Peter Shattuck, director of the Clean Energy Initiative at the Acadia Center, an an environmental policy group with offices in Maine and around the northeast.

“[Since RGGI’s 2009 startup] carbon pollution is down 40 percent, electricity prices are down 3 percent, and at the same time [the participating] states’ economies have grown by 25 percent,” he says.

Read and listen to the rest of this story.

Senate GOP leaders abruptly delay vote on healthcare bill until after July 4th recess | Los Angles Times

Facing resistance from their own party, Senate Republican leaders said Tuesday they would postpone a vote on their healthcare bill until after the July 4th recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to provide more time to make changes to the bill to try to convince reluctant GOP senators to vote for the measure.

“We’re going to press on,” McConnell said, adding he remains optimistic. “We’re continuing to talk.”

Since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would leave 22 million more Americans without insurance after 10 years, several Republicans senators had said they would not even support allowing the bill to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

Meanwhile, President Trump invited all GOP senators to the White House for a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who has expressed serious doubts about the bill, questioned whether revisions would make a difference.

“I have so many fundamental problems with the bill, that have been confirmed by the CBO report, that it’s difficult to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the bill,” Collins said on CNN.

Read the rest of the story.

Sen. Susan Collins Will Vote No On Health Care Bill: Her announcement is a significant blow to Senate Republicans | Huffington Post

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Monday she would not vote for the Senate’s controversial health care bill, despite urging from fellow Republicans to pass the legislation as soon as this week.

In a series of tweets, Collins cited a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday that found the new bill would cause 22 million people to lose their insurance over the next 10 years. The Senate’s bill would also dramatically undercut federal funding for Medicaid and financial assistance for low- and middle-income people, all facts Collins said wouldn’t “fix ACA problems for rural Maine,” referring to the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.

The announcement is a significant blow to Senate Republicans, particularly Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has scrambled to garner support for the bill, which could come up for a vote as early as Thursday.

Read more of this story and view images of Sen. Collins’ tweets and a table that shows the differences between the Affordable Care Act and the two GOP versions to repeal and replace ACA.

 

Our View: Sen. Collins should fight Senate health care bill | Portland (Maine) Press Herald

Sen. Susan Collins says she will spend the next few days carefully reviewing the new Affordable Care Act repeal proposal, taking a hard look at an upcoming analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and considering what she has learned from her conversations with constituents in Maine.

We admire her diligence, but we think Collins already has enough information to know what she should do. This bill would be bad for Maine and bad for America, and the senator should speak out against it as forcefully as possible.

Collins’ voice has never been more important. Because of the way parliamentary rules are being applied, the 52 Republicans in the Senate are the only ones who get to make a meaningful impact in this debate. If only three Republican senators refuse to sign on, the bill will have to be renegotiated. Just hours after details of the bill were revealed, four hard-right senators said they might scuttle it if the cuts to health care aren’t even deeper than proposed.

Read more of the editorial in the Portland Press Herald.

‘It’s going to take a lot of work’: Railway owner dreams of passenger service from Portland to Montreal | WGME via Bangor Daily News

FRYEBURG, Maine — Critics say it can’t be done, but if the owners of a proposed passenger train service are able to pull it off, it could bring hundreds of jobs and thousands of tourists to Maine. The last time the tracks in Fryeburg were used to carry passengers from Portland to Montreal, Canada, was in 1959. Now, 55 years later, plans are in the works to bring passenger train service back, linking Portland to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and to Montreal.

“I think this area needs that. I think the country needs that,” says Lisa Johnson of Chocorua, New Hampshire.

She’s already imagining how nice it would be to take a train to the Fryeburg Fair instead of fighting all that traffic.

“It’s a more relaxed way to travel,” she added. “You’re not fighting the traffic. You’re sitting back and relaxing, enjoying it.”

Better still, the president of Golden Eagle Railway says the new rail service would generate 200 full time jobs with benefits.

Read more here.

More to be thankful for as time goes on

Brenda and me at a sandwich shop.

Brenda and me at a sandwich shop. (Photo by Keith Michaud)

I know it is a bit late for a “thankful” blog entry, after all, people now are more concerned with camping out at their favorite stores to find the best deals for holiday shopping than they are about contemplating thankfulness.

But I am thankful for a whole lot more than I have been in quite a while.

Actually, I’ve been pretty grateful and thankful for quite a while. Even during my more than two and a half years of unemployment I was hopeful and fairly optimistic that I would eventually find a job, and grateful and thankful for what I did have. Two and a half years is a very long time to be without work and to remain optimistic in that time took considerable effort. But I did not give up. I was able to overcome quite a bit. Two years ago I even wrote that I was thankful for many things, despite my situation.

This year I am thankful for those same things, but also so much more thankful for two things in particular.

One of those things is a new job. I’ve been working now for about three weeks as the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal. It’s working out well, I think. My bosses appreciate my expertise and seem genuinely pleased that I am there. It is not my “dream job,” but does that sort of thing really exist anymore?

There is a chance that I would not have gone after or accepted that job if it was not for my girlfriend, Brenda. She is the one thing for which I most grateful this holiday season. I am very happy that she is in my life. We’ve been dating for a bit more than six months now. In that time she has been consistently encouraging and supportive and far more confident than I that I would find a job eventually. She was very caring in her encouragement. I am not sure I would still be in California if it were not for Brenda. We make each other laugh and it is very easy to be with her.

She is intelligent, bright, pretty, cute, funny, and able to laugh at herself.

She is a former teacher currently working as an aide on buses transporting developmentally disable adults while she earns her master’s degree in education. She longs to be back in the classroom and I hope that happens for her sooner than later.

She and a co-worker go to thrift stores to buy lightly worn jackets to give to people in need who cross their path. She made me tear up with pride when she told me that she could not give me the leftover roast and vegetables she had promised me because on the way to my apartment she spotted a homeless teen in need and gave him the food instead.

She is supporting her very bright, intelligent 18-year-old daughter while she earns her GED. Her son is a police officer and I know Brenda worries about him and his future. She is a caring daughter to her parents, one of whom is in the early stages of fast-acting dementia.

She has so much going on in her life, but she is able to find room in her heart for me. For that I am very thankful.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Navigating the poverty line: Pressure on Portland’s social safety net grows as dramatically does ranks of unemployed | Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND – It was about 6 a.m., dark and cold, when Brian Gailliot got on the welfare line Friday.

Portland’s General Assistance office wouldn’t open until 8, but the line was already 30 deep when he arrived. A man and woman at the front had been sitting there in folding chairs since 10 p.m. Thursday.

“There’s just not enough work,” said Gailliot, who currently works part time for a temp agency, eats at the local soup kitchen and sleeps in a friend’s apartment. “I haven’t had my own place for a year and a half.”

One in eight Mainers lived below the poverty line in 2010, according to recently released U.S. census data. Maine’s poverty rate hit 12.5 percent in 2010, up from 11.4 percent the year before.

On the streets, the prolonged economic slump is translating into dramatic increases in the number of unemployed people who have exhausted savings and unemployment benefits and are seeking help for the first time at Portland’s food pantries, soup kitchens and welfare offices.

Click to read more of the story by John Richardson in the Portland Press Herald.

Airman comes home from tour of duty to new Bangor home | Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — “Welcome home” took on a double meaning Friday for an Air Force command post controller assigned to the Maine Air National Guard Base in Bangor.

Not only did Kyle Eaton finally touch down at Bangor International Airport after his first overseas deployment, he also got his first look at the house he bought — sight unseen — during a six-month stint in an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia.

Eaton, a 2007 Hermon High School graduate who turned 22 last month, bought the tidy white house at 65 Parker St. through the city of Bangor’s recently established Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Though the program, which was funded through a $1,084,873 grant from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the city is able to buy foreclosed or vacant homes which it rehabilitates and sells to income-eligible first-time home buyers, according to Rosie Bradley, assistant director of community development for the city of Bangor.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a new program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, requires that participants incorporate green energy standards to make the homes more efficient and therefore affordable, Bradley noted.

The city so far has resold four homes, has another on the market and is overhauling a sixth, she said.

Though he was on the other side of the world, Eaton was able to surmount the hurdles to homeownership with the help of his father, to whom he granted power of attorney so that the real estate closing could take place.

Click to read more of this story by Dawn Gagnon in the Bangor Daily News and to see photos and video.

At long last, I am going back to work

It has been a very long, winding, tumultuous two and a half years of unemployment since March 2009 when I was laid off from The Record in Stockton, Calif. It has been a very difficult time for so many people, including and especially those in the newspaper business.

But I’m starting a new job on Monday Tuesday – a 60-day trial as the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal, a monthly publication with offices in Stockton and Modesto. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and confident that this will be a good fit. I get the feeling that the Central Valley Business Journal hasn’t had true editorial leadership in some time, so even small improvements in the publication will be noticeable.

I have never been a business writer/editor before so the experience will be challenging in that respect. I haven’t been the sole editor of a publication in quite a while, so it will be challenging in that respect, as well. And I haven’t had to get up early for work in quite a while, so that will be pleasantly challenging.

I have written here in the past of the complete emotional toll unemployment takes on a person. You lose your self-worth, self-respect, and sense of self. Friends and family who haven’t been through the situation cannot truly understand what the unemployed go through, but they still offer suggestions – “You know what you really should do is …” – of actions already taken time and time again. They mean so very well and knowing that kept me from screaming just a bit. Prospective employers reject you simply for having been unemployed. And society turns an uncomfortable cold shoulder to those of us who were unemployed for so long.

My girlfriend, Brenda, has been very supportive and encouraging through the past few months. I thank her for helping me maintain my enthusiasm for, well, everything and for encouraging me at every step. She is solidly in my heart.

Long-time friends – especially Teresa, Rick, and Michele – have provided part-time work, room and board, beer and tequila, laughter, and encouragement. I do appreciate everything they have done for me in the past two and a half years. Other friends, those not so “long-time,” also have provided encouragement and even groceries from time to time. For those veggies and peppers, Kathi, I am grateful. And I thank those Facebook friends who over the years have helped me maintain my sense of humor, perspective, and sanity, who have provided encouragement, job leads, and a place to vent. Thank you.

And now a new adventure awaits! I’m excited for it to begin.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Recession fears ease as growth speeds up | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Recession fears ease as growth speeds up | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Occupy Maine gets support from unions as demonstration nears one-week mark | Bangor Daily News

PORTLAND, Maine — Members of a group angry about corporate influence on government has found support from southern Maine labor unions as they close in on a week of camping out in downtown Portland.

The Occupy Maine settlement, a local offshoot of a nationwide network of demonstrations that began in mid-September with Occupy Wall Street, reaches its seventh day Friday, and members say their group is still growing. This weekend, Occupy Maine will celebrate what it’s calling Free Speech Weekend with music, yoga and art making.

Members of the Occupy movement have been calling themselves “the 99 percent,” referring to all those who are not among the 1 percent of the American population who control nearly half of wealth in the country. That 1 percent, occupiers argue, have an unfair amount of influence on federal governance.

“We’re getting bigger and bigger,” said Demi Colby, 23, of Gardiner, who took part in Occupy Wall Street and returned to her home state to help launch Occupy Maine on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Click to read the rest of Seth Koenig’s story in the Bangor Daily News.

Will write for food! … Or walk your dog!

Hey there! Hey there! I’m still trying to line up a freelance gig or two for the coming weeks. Please let me know if you are in need or know someone in need of a writer-editor-blogger-dog walker-house-sitter-dishwasher. Cheers!

State House Notebook: Voting a vital right for the homeless

AUGUSTA — Arguments about who should and shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Maine have raged all summer and will culminate with a statewide referendum Nov. 8 on the law passed in June to eliminate same-day voter registration, which has been allowed for 38 years.

A flap over a GOP news release last week criticizing 19 voters who registered in 2004 using a hotel address initially generated speculation that they were homeless voters. (It later became apparent that they were medical students who left Grand Cayman Island because of a hurricane.)

As it turns out, everyone apparently agrees that homeless Mainers deserve the right to vote.

“I don’t think that’s an issue. I think homeless people should be able to vote. I think people who are living in a homeless shelter should be able to vote,” said Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party and the most vociferous supporter of the law to eliminate same-day voter registration.

Click for more the notebook entries by Portland Press Herald staffers.

 

Bill Nemitz: Keep Preble Street miracle from disappearing | Maine Sunday Telegram

A cynic might read Dovid Muyderman’s story-turned-screenplay, in which two young Jewish brothers live in a homeless shelter by night and pull straight A’s at Portland High School by day, and scoff that it’s too far-fetched — stuff like that just doesn’t happen out there in the real world.

Except it did.

“This is eerie,” said Muyderman, 31, as he and Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street, stepped inside the Portland social service agency’s Lighthouse Shelter for homeless teenagers Thursday morning. “This is very familiar ground. It’s changed a little bit, but it’s got the same feel.”

What kind of feel?

“It’s a place to sleep, for sure,” Muyderman replied. “And a place to go to that’s safe and usually has food and resources and is really proximal to the school, which was good for us.”

He’s talking about himself and his older brother, Josh. Their story, which Dovid Muyderman hopes soon will be on a screen near you, is proof positive that kids without a home need not be kids without hope.

Click for the rest of the commentary by Bill Nemitz in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Back at the job search all over again

I haven’t written here much in the past month or so because of a project that has kept me from the job search and from blogging, except for shorts burst on Coffeehouse Observer.

The project involved fact checking several chapters of a travel guide due out next year. The travel guide publisher has promised me more work and the editor just emailed me about two projects. I could use the money.

But now I’m back at full speed, at least on a limited basis. I’m still looking for work and trying to line up freelance gigs to get by.

What I really need, of course, is a real job, one with steady pay, some benefits, and some social contact.

Things are really rough out there. They just announced that the unemployment rate in California is back up to 12 percent, the second worst unemployment rate in the country behind Nevada. The unemployment rate in the county where I live usually has been about 5 percentage points to 8 percentage points higher than the state level, so I would not be surprised if the unemployment rate here is 17 percent or higher.

It is terribly frustrating and unnerving. And very, very scary. It is even more frustrating and more unnerving and scarier when recognizing that the unemployment rate really does not count all those who are out of work, people who have given up looking for work or otherwise are no longer counted by the government. Experts usually say that the unemployment rate is significantly higher when taking into account those people. I am among those people who are no longer counted.

But I keep looking.

Friends I’ve known for 20 years or longer voice amazement that I haven’t been offered work in the past two and a half years since being laid off

“You have tons of experience,” they say. “Why hasn’t someone hired you already?”

That experience is a double-edged sword – I have proven myself capable, which is good for an employer because quality work will be done within deadlines. But I’ve proven myself capable, which is bad for an employer because it will cost the employer more in salary, the employer immediately assumes.

“You’re good at what you do,” my friends argue. “Something has to come up for you soon.”

I suppose I was good at what I did, but it has been a while since I did what I did. And employers can see that and I fear now that they barely consider my resume.

Just last week I applied for a job on the East Coast and within two days I had received an email noticed that I would not be considered for the position. I was sooo happy that the company took the time to fully consider my qualifications. (Please read the sarcasm in the previous sentence.)

I’ve come to expect rejection, which does little for confidence or morale or feeling of self-worth.

I keep plugging away, though. I have no other choice. I ran out of unemployment benefits months ago and cashed in an IRA, the thing money experts – people with jobs not facing eviction or starvation – say never to do. I am living on the money that would have been a portion of my total retirement. Another portion is left in investment accounts that are dwindling with each dip of the Stocks Exchange.

I will never retire. Certainly, not in the conventional sense of “retire.” But then again, there is nothing conventional about what some of us are experiencing.

So I continue the job search. I continue to look in my field – journalism. So if you know of any openings in journalism – editing, writing, blogging – or freelance opportunities, you can get in touch with me via the email address under my contact info.

And I also look for jobs with nonprofits, green industry, colleges and universities, and occasionally government. I also look for delivery jobs and general labor jobs and retail jobs and … well, you get the point.

I suppose that’s it for now. I just wanted to let you know I’m still around, still kicking, and still very hungry to get back to work.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

 

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Ocean energy conference asks: Why not Maine? | Portland Press Herald

Ocean energy conference asks: Why not Maine?

Some place will be the home base

of a new energy industry, it could be Maine

Ken Fletcher, the director of Maine’s state energy office, got a chance last week to back away from some earlier statements about the future of offshore wind power.

Fletcher had been quoted expressing skepticism about the LePage administration’s interest in a power source that would be more expensive than the above-average prices Mainers pay already. But Fletcher was reacting to a price target from a demonstration project, not the full-scale offshore wind farm that would be built only if the demonstration were a success. That development is projected to produce competitively priced power by the end of the decade.

Such a negative message coming from the governor’s top energy adviser, on the eve of a national ocean energy conference in Portland, could have been disruptive to an industry that is on the verge of viability after a long period of slow incubation.

Fortunately, Fletcher attended the conference, took part in a panel discussion and moderated his earlier comments. He also made a good point that is worth repeating: It’s not just about the power that you buy.

“The real opportunity we see is though our R&D, manufacturing and assembly,” Fletcher said.

Click to read more of the editorial in the Portland Press Herald.

Environmental coalition praises, criticizes lawmakers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Environmental coalition praises, criticizes lawmakers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.