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Resources for managing your hospitality and tourism workforce

Reopening Training Videos for Employee Development

Now What? How to Handle Workforce Issues in the Age of COVID-19

Checklists for Reopening and Resources


Now What? How to Handle Workforce Issues in the Age of COVID-19


Here are a few things every employer can do right now regarding your workforce, no matter how this situation unfolds: 

1. Become as educated as you can on matters of unemployment insurance, business loans, and disaster relief programs. All of Maine’s governmental agencies and non-profit organizations are mobilizing to keep you informed. Specifically related to employment: 

  • New guidelines for applying for unemployment related to COVID-19. If your employees file for unemployment, it will be approved with no one week waiting period and will not count against your experience rating. 
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has created provisions for employer-provided paid leave for businesses with between 50 and 500 employees - see this link for details. 
  • The CARES Act provided for changes to unemployment benefits in response to the COVID-19 outbreak for laid off or furloughed employees.


2. If you are furloughing or laying off employees, keep in mind they will become disengaged. There is a potential to lose them to competing businesses or industries. Keep employees motivated and in touch with your business:

  • Keep lines of communication as open as possible. Weekly updates on the state of your business to employees are a good idea, even if that update is just ‘we don’t know.’ Consider starting an email chain, Facebook group, or other form of communication to keep coworkers connected, even if they are unable to work from home due to their job duties and responsibilities. 


  • Invest in employees by providing distance learning educational opportunities. See next section for a list of educational opportunities for employees stuck at home.


  • Provide employees with as much information as possible about loans and unemployment insurance options, and help them apply for support if they need it. If you offer benefits, continuing to pay for employee health insurance benefits does not count as compensation for the purposes of calculating employees’ unemployment benefit. 


3. Don’t stop interviewing for open positions--but ‘meet’ them remotely. The public health situation is developing daily, but despite the recent situation, competition for willing workers in Maine is still fierce. Don’t stop taking opportunities to talk to great people who might want to work for you! If you cannot be open, you cannot be open--but if you do not have anyone to open with, you cannot be open regardless of what is going on with the virus. As long as you tell your potential employees that the situation is something that you have to play by ear, you will be preparing for all contingencies without making promises that cannot be kept.

That said, with social distancing, it is prudent to conduct all of your interviews by phone or online. Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype and Facetime are all great resources for remote interviewing. Cisco Webex announced yesterday that all of its services will be offered free to better facilitate remote communication. 

Here are some tips for conducting successful remote interviews:


4. Re-purpose your Workforce - as workplaces temporarily close, there are a lot of opportunities to come together as a community to help each other get through. Studies show that volunteering during a temporary layoff gives people a sense of purpose, allows them to learn new skills, and keeps spirits up. If your business uses this time in a coordinated way to help the community, it can bring community good will to your business down the line. 

Here are some volunteer groups in Maine that could use some more volunteers: 


If you have specific questions regarding workforce development (how to handle talking to your employees about this situation, how to set up effective weekly updates), would like assistance in finding appropriate distance learning opportunities for your employees, or how to navigate interviewing in a time of such uncertainty, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss your individual situation in more detail: 


Kathryn Ference

Director of Workforce Development

Maine Tourism Association




Checklists for Reopening

The Maine Department for Economic and Community Development has created checklists Maine businesses to reopen. Please see the following documents for your business's checklists:


Retail Businesses



Day Camps/ Summer Recreation Programs

You must fill out this form to certify that your business is in compliance with your industry's checklist. This form is required.

DECD has created badges–for businesses that have used the checklist and filled out the compliance form–to voluntarily post on their doors, website or social media channels to help instill consumer confidence in their operations. This badges are optional.