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April 16, 2009
Approximately 10,000 laid-off workers could benefit by the end of this year from legislation signed today by Governor John Baldacci after expedited consideration by the Maine Legislature. The measure makes changes to Maine unemployment law to allow the start of an Extended Benefit Program. This provides additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, are still unemployed, and have run out of other unemployment benefits.
Extended Benefits are paid in addition to up to 59 weeks of benefits already provided to workers who have lost their jobs (26 weeks of which are through Regular Unemployment Benefits and 33 weeks of which are through Emergency Unemployment Compensation Benefits). Extended Benefits provide up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment and are only payable after a worker runs out of all other unemployment benefits.
“This law gives that extra help to Mainers who need it most,” said Governor Baldacci. “I want to thank the bipartisan leadership of the Maine Legislature for recognizing the importance of quick action on this important bill. Maine can now access additional federal funds made available through the Recovery Act. Estimates show that the total impact could be at least $24 million working through the Maine economy.”
As many as 263 workers may be eligible for Extended Benefits now, and hundreds more will likely qualify within the next six weeks. The first payable week for Extended Benefits will be the week ending April 11. The program will remain in place until the end of this year.
“The national recession has created a very tough job market for Maine workers who have lost their jobs,” said Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman. “Extended Benefits will help those laid-off workers who are struggling the hardest in our economy to find new jobs.”
Workers do not need to apply for Extended Benefits. The Maine Department of Labor will send an information packet on Extended Benefits that will include detailed instructions for filing for and collecting these benefits as well as the weekly claim form to all workers potentially eligible for the program along with information on their maximum weekly benefit amount. Once eligibility for extended benefits is determined, additional information will be mailed out informing individuals of their weekly benefit amount and the total benefits they might potentially receive under this program.
Commissioner Fortman noted that there are some important differences in the new Extended Benefit program. Workers will need to do a much more stringent work search and will need to provide documentation of the work search before their weekly claim can be paid. Given the nature of the work search requirements, weekly claims for Extended Benefits must be filed on paper each week. The weekly claim form can be mailed or faxed to a specific unit being set up to process these payments in Augusta.
The Commissioner also reminded workers that Maine CareerCenters are the best resources for people needing help with their job search. The CareerCenter Job Bank, which was launched in November, has registered close to 100,000 workers to date. The service is available from any computer connected to the internet and allows workers to search for jobs by region, occupation, or wage.
CareerCenters also assist jobseekers with career and education planning and host a variety of workshops on different employment topics. Veterans’ representatives are available to provide counseling on programs and benefits available to qualified veterans. Specialized employment services are also provided to assist people with disabilities in finding or keeping a job.
Provisions in the federal Recovery Act pays for 100 percent of the cost of Extended Benefits for most workers. The Governor’s legislation made technical changes in Maine Unemployment Law to allow the program to start this month.
For more information on the Extended Benefit program and other unemployment benefits for workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own, visit www.fileforui.com
For more information on the Recovery Act and its impact on Maine, visit www.MaineRecovery.gov