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I am closing the longest running redemption center in Maine because of a lack of employees. Redemption centers are closing throughout the state. The Maine Bottle Bill is the most effective and efficient recycling system in the country. It was initially passed as an anti-litter bill. A goal which it has successfully done. The state must act quickly to save this industry.
Like all redemption centers, over the years I have employed many people with different challenges. I have had people recovering from addiction, convicted felons, work release inmates and homeless people. One of my best employees was a gentleman with an intellectual disability. He worked for me for 27 years. He called in sick one day in that time. These people must be supported by our elected officials.
The Legislature sets the handling fee paid to the redemption centers by distributors. We do not have any prices to raise to offset inflation. We cannot give our employees raises without the Legislature increasing the handling fee.
There are actions the state can take to save this valuable industry and our valued employees. I don’t know if executive action or legislative action would be needed. First, the state could give the redemption centers a temporary 5-cent raise in the handling fee to offset inflation. Secondly, to assist in retaining employees the state could give the employees a temporary payment to equal roughly a $2 raise.
The payment would go directly to the employee. This would assure that they would get the payment.