The coronavirus has caused an “unprecedented” economic downturn in Maine. Spikes in unemployment claims have broken the formulas economists use to predict what may come next. The Maine Monitor spoke with four Maine economists and one finance professor about vulnerabilities in the state economy and how it will get back on track.
For the past two decades, Maine’s newspapers jostled between periods of secular industry decline and widespread economic calamity. From 2000 to 2018, six in 10 newspaper publishing jobs have disappeared and wages have grown sluggishly at best. Only paper mills, semiconductor manufacturers, wood-product makers and vocational rehabilitation service providers shed jobs at a faster rate.
The state’s social-distancing requirements and a decision on notarizations by Gov. Janet Mills have made it increasingly difficult for independent Senate candidates to qualify for the Maine ballot.
Maine invested millions of federal dollars in protective medical equipment and emergency ventilators to prepare its hospitals for infectious disease, bioterrorism and mass casualty events. Yet, years of spending cuts left Maine’s three regional resource centers strapped for cash to replace aging and expiring medical supplies.
More than 400 pieces of Maine legislation are in limbo, including measures to reform the state’s criminal justice system, following the sudden adjournment of the Legislature last week because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus. There is urgency to decide on these bills before new representatives are elected in November.
Maine is reducing its jail population as the state aims to avoid potential exposure of staff and inmates to COVID-19, the illness widely known as coronavirus, inside its locked facilities.
More than 9,000 people are incarcerated in Maine jails every year for one simple reason: They didn’t show up for their court date. Advocates say a text message system that would send court date reminders to defendants’ cell phones could help reduce that number. Others say a paper reminder should be enough.
Washington County officials, feeling neglected by the district attorney they share with Hancock County, want their own prosecutorial district to help address the growth of drug-related offenses. The unequal relationship between the counties highlights a disparity in Maine’s district court system.
Major reforms to Maine’s public defense system are expected to be delayed until at least 2021, after the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services missed its window to submit rule changes by more than five weeks.
Private electricity suppliers, which promised rates lower than the government-set default, instead cost Mainers an extra $132 million over seven years.
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