Old Town

LaBree’s Bakery overwhelmed with applications as laid off Mainers search for work

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OLD TOWN, Maine — As Maine businesses indefinitely shut their doors or resort to layoffs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, some freshly out-of-work Mainers are finding new hope at LaBree’s Bakery. 

The bakery, established in 1948, employs approximately 200 workers on average, including some from a work-release program with the Charleston Correctional Facility. 

In an attempt to prevent a facility outbreak, LaBree’s CFO and human resources officer David Dorr said the state temporarily suspended the program, which left the bakery to fill empty positions. 

The change hasn’t halted production for the bakery, which has since been overwhelmed by job applications. 

“We didn’t find any problem replacing them,” Dorr said. 

In the last two weeks alone, the business has hired about 20 new workers to fill the vacant spots — some who were recently laid off elsewhere. Tight restrictions on businesses — particularly restaurants —  to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 have forced some employers to cut their staff. 

Fresh out of a job, some people have turned to LaBree’s for help. Dorr said they’re getting applications from people with all different kinds of job experience seeking stable work to hold them over.  

[Restaurant staff divvy up food, help each other file for unemployment, as they enter ‘panic mode’]

In a three-day period beginning last Sunday, the state received approximately 4,900 new unemployment claims, which is more than they had had in the previous six weeks. 

Every day the bakery hires new people, Dorr said, adding that they’ll have even more than 20 new employees after next week. When the state restarts the work-release program for inmates, the Dorr said he expects they’ll hire people from there, too, who can work on rotating shifts to save overtime hours. “If people want to work, we’ll put them to work.” 

One new hire is a certified nursing assistant who said he wanted to work for a company that was going to be stable enough so he could provide for his children and family, said Dorr.  

“They’re flooding in,” said Dorr.  “It’s incredible — the people we’re getting.” 

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