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Maine Policy Matters
13 minutes | Nov 29, 2022
S2E6 Sustainable Small Businesses and Employee Ownership
On this episode, we will be offering data and strategies from Rob Brown, the director of Business Ownership Solutions at the Cooperative Development Institute based in Northampton, Massachusetts. Business Ownership Solutions works throughout the Northeast states with business owners to think through whether conversion to a cooperative could meet their needs. They also work with employees or community members to execute the co-op conversion. You can find Rob Brown's article here: https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1905&context=mpr
31 minutes | Nov 15, 2022
S2E5 Maine Food System and the Pandemic: Interview with JG Malacarne and Jason Lilley
On this episode of Maine Policy Matters we are joined by scholars Jonathan Malacarne and Jason Lilley to discuss how the pandemic shocked the Maine Food System and how it recovered. You can find their article here: https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/mpr/vol30/iss2/5/
40 minutes | Nov 1, 2022
S2E5 Interview with Liam Riordan - Democracy and the Humanities
Today, we have with us Liam Riordan, Adelaide and Alan Bird Professor of History at the University of Maine and serves as Chair on the City of Bangor’s Historic Preservation Commission. Riordan was the past Director of the University of Maine McGillicudy Humanities Center, is a past board member of the Maine Humanities Council, and has been a faculty member since 1997. In his current role, Riordan helps organize Maine National History day, a statewide history contest for middle and high school students. His recent work has included him traveling across Maine giving talks such as “What Did We Learn from the Maine State Bicentennial? Reflections on Historical Commemoration”. He also gave a talk titled “Picturing Maine’s Indigenous Context”.
10 minutes | Oct 18, 2022
S2E4 William D. Adam’s’ Reading of ”The Urgency of Democracy”
In preparation for election day on November 1st, today we are hosting William D. Adams—the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities—for a reading of his essay “The Urgency of Democracy.” Link to essay: https://mcspolicycenter.umaine.edu/mpr/2021/06/16/the-urgency-of-democracy/ William D. Adams served as the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2014 to 2017 and where he launched a new initiative, The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, as a way to demonstrate the critical role humanities scholarship can play in public life. He was president of Colby College from 2000 to 2014 and served previously as president at Bucknell University. At Colby, Adams led a multimillion dollar campaign that included expansion of the Colby College Museum of Art and support for several other humanities-based initiatives.
59 minutes | Oct 4, 2022
S2E3 Commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day with Gail Dana-Sacco
In commemoration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 10th, we will be hosting Gail Dana-Sacco on today’s episode with her reading of her article entitled “Indigenous Voices Charting a Course Beyond the Bicentennial: Eba gwedji jik-sow-dul-din-e wedji gizi nan-ul-dool-tehigw (Let’s try to listen to each other so that we can get to know each other)” Link to article: https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1857&context=mpr Credit for intro and outro music goes to Allen Sockabasin, who advocated for the restoration of the Passamaquoddy language throughout his lifetime through his music and his teaching. Gail Dana-Sacco became the first known Passamaquoddy to earn a Ph.D. when she completed her doctorate in health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University in 2009. Today, her work centers on advancing wolibmowsawogon, a world in which Indigenous peoples, lands, and languages can thrive. This article is dedicated to all the Passamaquoddy who have come before us and who are with us today, and the ones who are still to come, whose love and support have made this journey possible and will guide us forward. Gazelmulpa.
33 minutes | Sep 20, 2022
S2E2 Interview with Maine State Economist Amanda Rector
In this second episode of Maine Policy Matters Season 2, Eric Miller interviews Amanda Rector, the Maine state economist since 2011. Rector describes what it was like to be the state economist during the pandemic, how things turned out compared to how she originally thought they would turn out, the effects from the federal response to the pandemic, changes in the workplace, and makes predictions for the future. Maine State Economist Amanda Rector Transcript Miller: Welcome to your main Policy Matters podcast from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. I am Eric Miller, Research Associate at the Center. Today we have with us Amanda Rector, State economist since 2011. In her role as state economist, she analyzes Maine's economic and demographic conditions to help inform policy decisions. Rector is a member of the state of Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee and serves as the Governor's Liaison to the US Census Bureau. Amanda Rector has published an essay in the Maine Policy Review entitled, “(Un)precedented: Reflecting on the Early Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which you can find of reading of right here on the Maine Policy Matters podcast. Her essay details her personal experience with the pandemic and her journey from unprecedented to precedented times. She explains how research has given us a historical reference point for the pandemic, saying we will be talking with Rector about her thoughts on what has changed since those first days of the pandemic. [Background music] Miller: Firstly, thanks so much for joining us today. Rector: It's my pleasure. Miller: To start with an easy one, can you describe for us a bit what it was like to be the state economist in those early days of the pandemic? Rector: Well, I suddenly became a lot more popular. It's funny how a pandemic and recession will make economists suddenly people that everybody wants to talk to. You know, I think that one of the things in the early days, everyone was scrambling to get a sense of what was happening and scrambling to get data. And so, in some senses, there was this sort of drinking from the firehose effect of just everybody trying to grab onto any piece of information they possibly could. So, I felt like I was spending hour upon hour just reading things that were in some cases completely foreign to me. I had not done a lot of reading about pandemics in the past - not in my usual wheelhouse. And then I started just - I think one of the advantages to Maine is that because it's that, it's that sort of big, small town feel. Everybody is willing to just pick up the phone and talk. And so I spent a lot of time just getting on the phone saying, “Hey, you know? What are you seeing? What's happening in your field? Are you seeing things going on in your businesses? What are you worried about? What are you concerned is going to happen that you're not going to be able to come back from or recover from? And you know, it was really challenging to try to wrap my arms around everything that was going on in a fashion that I could then condense that and share helpful information with the folks who are making policy decisions. Miller: Yeah, I can't even imagine. I can't say that I heard too much from a state economist prior to the pandemic myself and I have a masters in economics, so it really has been interesting to observe how the ground has shifted in so many ways over the past two years. What surprised you over the past two years now that we're in a different part of the pandemic, did any of what you predicted in your piece come true, or what did we get right? We need to work out. Rector: You know, I think we thought it was going to be a lot worse than it really was in economic terms, particularly at the very beginning. And if you look back at some of the predictions that were coming from very qualified forecasters, there was a lot of doom and gloom that was coming out. And I think that the thing that we didn't and what prevented those really dreadful outcomes was the federal response. We simply had no way of knowing that the federal response was going to be as rapid and as extensive as it was. And so that really provided enough cushion to prevent those outcomes that were being tossed around early on where you know revenues declining by just tremendous numbers and it didn't happen. And in fact, if you look at our revenue picture now, we have revenues that are well above and beyond even what you know, our most recent forecasts were we've seen just a lot of revenue growth. We certainly we don't have explanations for all of it. You know a lot of it is still unprecedented in a different way now, I guess, because it's, you know, looking at this and saying, gosh, we don't really know where all this is coming from. But I think some of it was a matter of the federal supports that came out. If you look at what happened for personal income, for example, personal current transfer receipts, which are the funds that come from a government entity, either to or on behalf of an individual and it includes things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, other income maintenance benefits, veterans benefits, a whole slew of different things. Those become a really important component of personal income during a couple of quarters. In particular, the quarters where stimulus checks went out when the enhanced unemployment benefits were flowing, and then when the child tax credit payments were going out during the second half of 2021. And so that enabled people to continue to engage in the economy at a level that wasn't really anticipated. We haven't really seen that kind of a response before and so that was able to keep people paying their bills, going up shopping. Maybe in some cases ordering online because they couldn't actually go out. But able to engage with the economy in a way that If they hadn't had those supports, we wouldn't have seen those purchases continue and it would have been a very different situation for revenues in turn. Miller: When you mentioned the speed of the federal response, my mind immediately goes to the 2008 and the federal response was a little bit slower. They'll shift your targeted in a much different way than the CARES Act that came out at the beginning, which I'm interested in how the policymakers learn from that and realize the scope of the pandemic and what that means economically, as well as from a personal health context. Rector: Right. I think there were there were a lot of feelings that the response following the Great Recession wasn't enough and there were a lot of concern is that we, the federal government, needed to move more rapidly this time around. And of course, now we'll learn from this one and hopefully we won't face another global pandemic anytime soon, but certainly in terms of what the response might be next time. Learning what worked, what didn't work. Uhm, and where things need to be tweaked further? Miller: Right. Every experience is definitely a learning experience. Yeah, as a research Economic Research practitioner myself, I have a little bit of a technical question I'm interested in asking you if you indulge me. Now it's been a couple of years we have data from the more traditional economic giants that like the Census Bureau that release data. How does the unconventional and creative data sources that you piece together match up with what they've released now, like the Census Bureau, such as, you know, calling up businesses, et cetera. Rector: Yeah, you know, some of some of what we heard absolutely panned out. I mean, when I talked to folks who were in the leisure and hospitality industry, they said we can't do anything because it is literally our business model is face to face interactions and we cannot do face to face interactions. We knew that they were going to be hard hit and they absolutely were and that has been a piece of the economy that has been somewhat slower to come back although certainly as we're in the summer tourism season now, they're hopefully doing better than they had been. I think you know I think that some of the pieces that we looked at there were there were some data sources that I was looking at from Opportunity Insights. They had a website, tracktherecovery.org was their website and we relied on that because it was reasonably well vetted, but they put together a bunch of different sources on things like small business openings and consumer spending and employment. And they were much more timely than a lot of the official sources they had some on employment where they were looking at employment levels by income rank essentially so high wage, middle wage, low wage workers and what were the employment. One of the things that we were seeing there was this K shaped recovery where the higher wage jobs were coming back faster than the low wage jobs and that seemed to pan out in the official data as well. If you looked at the sectors that were lagging behind in the recovery, they tended to be lower wage sectors. So leisure and hospitality, which I mentioned, some parts of health care and social assistance including long term care and social assistance - child cares in particular - and state and local government particularly, sort of the public education piece of it. So that was one piece that we had an indication that that that was happening before we got the official data on that one. And another one that actually tracked really well was the time spent outside the home. Miller: Those walks those walks were big. Rector: One of the earliest data sources that was actual data that I got was vehicle miles traveled from the Department of Transportation, which you would not think of as a traditional economic indicator,
9 minutes | Sep 6, 2022
S2 E1 Amanda Rector’s ”(Un)precedented: Reflecting on the Early Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Maine Policy Matters—Season 2, Episode 1 Link to Essay: https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/mpr/vol30/iss2/1/ What’s a state economist to do in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic? When everyone is asking for answers, but they are hard to find? In this episode of Maine Policy Matters, Amanda Rector, the Maine state economist since 2011, shares her thoughts on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic’s economic impact, and what the future might hold. Transcript What’s a state economist to do in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic? When everyone is asking for answers, but they are hard to find? Amanda Rector, the Maine state economist since 2011, shares her thoughts on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic’s economic impact, and what the future might hold. [Background music] This is the Maine Policy Matters podcast from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. I am Eric Miller, research associate at the Center. On each episode of Maine Policy Matters, we discuss public policy issues relevant to the state of Maine. Today, we are going to hear an essay written by Amanda Rector–the Maine state economist–entitled “Unprecedented: Reflecting on the Early Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” In her words (full text of original article): I remember very clearly the last days I spent in my Augusta office before the COVID-19 pandemic had me working from home. The last in-person meeting I spoke at was awkward as we tried to figure out the social dynamics: do we shake hands? Elbow bump? Wave from a safe distance? I chatted with someone in the parking lot who was hauling a computer monitor and keyboard and box full of paperwork to her car. “Who knows when we’ll be back,” she joked. The white board in my office was covered with notes on the potential economic effects from the pandemic. They were up for so long before I came back that I can still see traces of it that I couldn’t fully erase—a memory of the last days before so many lives changed so much. I spent the early days of the pandemic drinking from a firehose of information, trying to wrap my brain around the economic impacts of a global pandemic. As an economist, I found I was suddenly a very popular person, even though it felt like I was just repeating the phrase “I don’t know” in every conversation. The only upshot was that no one else knew either. I took advantage of the small-town nature of Maine to start calling folks up, asking how their businesses or sectors were doing, what they saw coming down the pike, and what might be helpful as they navigated this strange new world of PPE (personal protective equipment) and stay-at-home orders. While the plural of anecdote is not data, on-the-ground perspectives do count for something when data aren’t available. Data are my bread and butter: I use numbers and trends to understand what is happening and then translate that data for people who are trying to make decisions, whether policy, business, or research related. The challenge was that the pandemic broke my data sources. Demographic and economic data are notoriously lagged and most traditional sources wouldn’t start reflecting effects from the pandemic for months. The first source of real data I could get my hands on was vehicle miles traveled from the Maine Department of Transportation. We could use this as a proxy for economic activity because of the nature of the economic disruption—economic activity had slowed because the physical movement of people had slowed. Even as quickly as the pandemic was breaking traditional data sources, though, there were people and organizations scrambling to put together innovative new data sources. Many of these new sources used big data and all of the digital information we trail behind us as we move through the world. Opportunity Insights, for example, gave us estimates of consumer spending, small business openings, employment, and time spent outside the home. Were the data perfect? No. But it was much better to have semireliable, timely data (with an understanding of the shortcomings) than to be flying blind. Even the US Census Bureau, the staid bureaucratic stalwart of thoroughly vetted and significantly lagged data, got into the act, producing Small Business and Household Pulse Survey data with astonishing speed. Federal policy response happened rapidly as well. The Federal Reserve Bank made monetary policy shifts and Congress passed fiscal stimulus and economic supports that were signed by the president in short order. Recent analysis has shown just how important those measures were: the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes into account various assistance programs, actually fell in 2020 and would have risen if it weren’t for the federal stimulus packages. Federal supports staved off what could have been disastrous economic consequences. It is important to remember, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a highly individualized experience. Everything from race and ethnicity to gender to household status to income level to geographic location to industry and occupation to the presence of children in the home has affected any given person’s impact from the pandemic. It has been difficult, at times, to remember that not everyone is having the same experience and that what has been a mild inconvenience for some has been an earth-shattering disaster for others. It appears that, for many people, the pandemic has triggered a period of soul-searching. No one has been completely untouched by the pandemic, and the rapidity with which change happened has thrown us all for a loop. For some workers, this has been a time to think about what they really want out of life and work. Maybe it’s higher wages or better benefits (or any benefits, in some cases). Maybe it’s a different field of work. Maybe it’s more time spent at home instead of on the road commuting to a job. Maybe it’s more autonomy or more respect or more consistent hours. Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist at Texas A&M University, coined the term “the Great Resignation” to describe recent rises in job quits tied to the desire for better work, however that might be defined. We seem to be engaged in a nationwide period of navel gazing, with the final conclusions yet to be determined. Where is this period of reflection and re-evaluation taking us? In some cases, it is accelerating trends that already existed. Remote work was already increasing before the pandemic, but with so many people working for so long in some form of remote work, it is likely that a higher share of remote work is here to stay. Recent surveys have indicated that workers are looking for the ability to work either fully or partly from home or a remote location. The combination of health risks for older people and a strong stock market likely accelerated the retirements of many older workers. Challenges in hiring workers, particularly in fields such as retail or leisure and hospitality, will likely accelerate the automation trends that were already beginning to take over for some hard-to-fill vacancies. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a recession that lasted from February to April of 2020. A mere two months. The shortest recession on record. But it was also the deepest recession on record. It shows up in our economic data as a rift, or a spike, depending on the measure. Long-term analysis will have to treat the pandemic period as an outlier; I anticipate many future research papers with an asterisk next to 2020–2021. During the first months of the pandemic, the word I heard most often was “unprecedented.” It became so overused that it started to lose meaning. We used that word so much because there were so many things we had no benchmark for, no prior experience with, nothing to look back on. I have to imagine this is one of the words that will be synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, what we have been through is precedented and the analysis that has resulted provides us with a historical reference point when looking back at the pandemic period and the resilience, ingenuity, and change it has sparked. [Background music] What you just heard was a reading of Maine state economist Amanda Rector’s essay entitled “Unprecedented: Reflecting on the Early Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” You can find this essay in Maine Policy Review’s special issue on Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Volume 30, No. 2. Maine Policy Review is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, edited by Linda Silka, Joyce Rumery, and Barbara Harrity. Jonathan Rubin directs the Policy Center. A thank you to Jayson Heim and Kathryn Swacha, scriptwriters for Maine Policy Matters, and to Daniel Soucier, our production consultant. In the next episode we will host Amanda Rector for a more in-depth interview about her thoughts on COVID’s economic impact. We would like to thank you for listening to Maine Policy Matters from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. You can find us online by searching Maine Policy Matters on your web browser. If you enjoyed this episode, please follow us on your preferred social media platform to stay updated on new episode releases. I am Eric Miller—thanks for listening and please join us next time on Maine Policy Matters.
41 minutes | Apr 17, 2020
S01E02 - Maine Policy Matters: Universal Basic Income, Covid-19, & ME
In this episode of Maine Policy Matters, Daniel Soucier sits down with Dr. Michael Howard to discuss the confluence of Universal Basic Income and the novel coronavirus pandemic.
37 minutes | Mar 29, 2020
S01E01 - Maine Policy Matters: The Impact of Maine Policy Review
The focus of Maine Policy Matters is the exploration of policy matters at the local, regional, and national levels as well as to highlight how policy decisions in Maine matter at the local, regional, and national levels. The double play on the title reinforces the mission, vision, and values of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center to inform public policy processes and promote civil discourse, integrity, and societal decision-making to solve the critical issues facing Maine and the nation. The podcast facilitates open and inclusive communication to advance relationships between policymakers, community leaders, students, faculty, and staff in the University of Maine System. In the first episode of the podcast, Dr. Linda Silka, the executive editor of Maine Policy Review and Senior Fellow at the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions discusses the emerging and innovative policy research featured in the journal. She emphasizes MPR’s essential role in policymaking and policy education in Maine and discusses the scope and impact of the publication which has been downloaded over 260,000 times in over 203 different countries. This highlights that Maine policy matters to individuals across the globe.
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