Legislators stunned after Governor prevents her own Labor Commissioner from appearing at meeting to discuss failed unemployment systemSTATEHOUSE – Legislators of both parties expressed shock and dismay over Governor Mills’ decision to withhold Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman from a meeting of the Labor Committee today to discuss problems with Maine’s unemployment system. That system continues to affect tens of thousands of people, many of whom have yet to receive benefits 11 weeks into the Governor’s shutdown of the Maine economy.
“There are no words that can adequately express how troubling it is that the person in charge of overseeing Maine’s unemployment system cannot appear to answer questions and hear from legislators whose constituents are desperate,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “The Governor’s hand-picked Commissioner needs to be available to explain why our system is failing, when virtually every other system in the country is functioning better than ours.”
“The Governor’s refusal to make her Labor Commissioner available is bad, really bad,” said Assistant Republican Leader Harold ‘Trey’ Stewart. “Unconscionable, irresponsible and tone deaf to the pleas of citizens and families that face financial ruin, homelessness, or worse. Commissioner Fortman needs to resign so we can get the Department operating effectively as soon as possible for the people of Maine.”The House Republican Lead on the committee expressed similar outrage and dismay that Republicans on the committee were never notified that she would not be at the meeting until today.
“We were completely surprised when the Commissioner didn’t show up today. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s about asking why Maine’s unemployment system is failing people when they need it most,” said Richard Bradstreet (R-Vassalboro). “People need answers, and above all, to be heard by the Governor and the person she entrusted with Maine’s unemployment system. Commissioner Fortman strongly consider resigning in order to try and restore public confidence that the system can be fixed without further delay.”