Frequently Asked Questions About Unemployment

The frequently asked questions section addresses topics and specific questions that are often asked of the Department of Labor.  Many additional answers to questions not addressed here may be obtained from other materials on this website or by calling the Department at  207-623-7900.  Depending on the nature of your inquiry, you may need to seek legal guidance from private counsel on questions of your obligations under the law.

What is Unemployment Insurance? 

Unemployment insurance provides a temporary source of income to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Unemployment insurance is funded by unemployment taxes paid by employers.

When should I apply for benefits?

You can apply as soon as you become unemployed. Your application cannot be made retroactive prior to the week in which it is filed.

How do I apply for benefits?

You can apply for unemployment online, by telephone, or by mail. Your best option for filing an unemployment claim is to file online. If you are temporarily laid-off, your employer may provide you with a partial claim form if they expect to rehire you within a short period of time. Filing by phone may be difficult during periods of high call volumes, you may have a long wait time on the phone or get a message to call back later in the day. We apologize for the inconvenience. Wait times are typically shorter on Wednesdays and Thursdays and in the afternoon.

When you apply you will need the following information:

  • Your Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number;
  • The business name, address and telephone number of each place you worked at during the past 18 months; and
  • The jobs you held and the dates you worked (for each employer).

Veterans who separated from the armed forces in the past 18 months will need to provide information from a DD-214. Federal civilian employees will need to provide information from a SF-8 or SF-50.

How much will I receive ?

The dollar amount you are qualified to receive each week is called your weekly benefit amount. It is based on your earnings during a set period prior to losing your job. The figure is calculated by dividing the average of your wages in the 2 highest quarters of your base period by 22. The maximum weekly benefit you can receive is $386.00 (plus $10 per dependent per week up to one half the weekly benefit amount).

Will my employer be notified?

Yes. We will contact your employer to obtain information needed to process your application.

What is covered employment?

Covered employment is work performed for employers who are subject to unemployment compensation law. Covered employment from other states may be used under certain conditions.

What is the benefit year?

The benefit year is a period of 52 consecutive weeks. It begins on the Sunday of the week in which your application is filed. Your claim is good for one year.

What is the base period?

The base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the first day of your benefit year. We will use the last four completed quarters if you are not eligible using the regular base period quarters.

How long may I receive benefits?

The law establishes the maximum amount you may draw during your benefit year. This amount depends on your individual earnings and is limited to a maximum of 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits. Not all individuals qualify for all 26 weeks. (Additional benefits may also be available under Special Programs.)

If I am monetarily eligible (I have the required wages in my base period), will I receive benefits?

Not necessarily. The monetary allowance of an application means only that you have sufficient qualifying weeks and wages. We must determine if you meet all of the eligibility requirements.

What can keep me from qualifying for Unemployment?

You may have enough covered wages in your base period and still be denied for other reasons. Some of the reasons for disqualification are listed below.

You may be disqualified if you:

  • were discharged or fired for misconduct [Laws, Rules]
  • voluntarily quit without good cause attributable to the employment [Laws , Rules]
  • are not able and available for full-time work [Laws, Rules]
  • are not a U. S. citizen and not authorized to work in this country [Laws, Rules]
  • have limited the wages, hours, days, or areas of a job you would accept [Laws, Rules]
  • do not report for or satisfactorily participate in reemployment services as directed [Laws, Rules]
  • are self employed [Laws, Rules]
  • are involved in a strike [Laws, Rules]
  • are not looking for work [Laws, Rules]
  • refuse suitable work [Laws, Rules]

Are there other types of disqualification?

Yes. The law imposes a special "between-terms" disqualification whereby certain college and school employees cannot be paid benefits for any week of unemployment which begins during the period between two successive academic years or terms. Also, professional athletes cannot be paid benefits for weeks of unemployment between two successive sports seasons. You should always file a claim to determine your eligibility if any of these conditions apply to you. [Laws, Rules]

What are my obligations after I am approved for benefits?

Weekly claims are filed on a calendar-week basis, Sunday through Saturday. Weekly claims forms must be filed within 14 days of the date that the claim form is issued to you. If filed later, you will have to show good cause for late filing. The unemployment call center that you call will send you a booklet on your rights and responsibilities while filing claims. Claim forms will be sent to you on a weekly basis which must be returned to continue receiving benefits.

How long will it take to get my first unemployment check?

The first valid week is a Waiting Period week and no check is payable for that week. It will take approximately 2-3 weeks from the date you first file a new claim to receive your first unemployment check. (Remember, you must file a claim to receive credit for the waiting week.)

Are all earnings reportable each week?

Yes. You must report all earnings from all jobs for the week the work was performed even if you were not paid that week. Your first $25.00 will not affect your unemployment check. Earning greater than $25.00 will be deducted from your benefits.  If you earn more than $5.00 above your weekly benefit amount, you will not be eligible for benefits for that week.

Is any other income deducted?

Under certain conditions, termination or separation pay and pensions are deducted. [Laws, Rules]

It doesn't look like I'll be able to collect unemployment after reading this information. What should I do?

You should file a claim. This information is provided to you as a guide only. Your eligibility cannot be accurately determined without actually filing a claim for benefits. You will be provided with a written decision that can be appealed if you disagree with the facts. Your claim cannot be backdated for any reason and valuable weeks of benefits could be lost if you delaying filing a claim. You cannot be denied the right to file a claim and receive a determination of eligibility.

Is Job Training Available?

Yes. The Maine Department of Labor is a workforce development agency and uses a variety of federal and state programs. Workers who lose their jobs due to foreign imports may be eligible for training and other services if their employers have been "certified" under the Trade Adjustment Assistance laws (TAA). A list of certified employers is available under the Special Programs section. Contact the CareerCenter for more information.