Department of Labor Processes Thousands of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Applications on First Day of Program Bookmark and Share

May 1, 2020

For Immediate Release: May 1, 2020

Department of Labor Processes Thousands of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Applications on First Day of Program

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Labor began accepting applications for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program on Friday, May 1. Over 3,000 new applications for benefits had been processed by noon, and many more thousand are expected to be processed over the weekend. U.S. rules prohibit detailed disclosure of claim numbers except in the weekly reports that come out each Thursday morning.

The increased web traffic resulted in slower response times. The Department is continuing to monitor the system and optimize its performance. The Department urges potential filers to use a desktop or laptop computer for filing, instead of a mobile device.

The Department urges new filers to be patient with the system. Claims can be filed at any time, including throughout the weekend and in to next week. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is available until December 2020. All payments will be made retroactive to the date of loss of employment. Applications are accepted 24-hours-a-day on the DOL website. If a claim does not require further review after filing, eligible claimants should begin receiving their benefits within seven days from filling their initial claim and first weekly certification. All claims will be automatically retroactive to the date of work separation listed on the application, back to March 15.

To expedite the benefits process, claimants are not required at this time to attest to their earnings or send the Department paper or electronic copies of documents showing their earnings. Benefits will be paid prior to verification of income. The Department will let claimants know later in May when these documents should be uploaded to finalize their claims.

Claimants who have already been denied for traditional state unemployment benefits because they were ineligible based on their prior earnings, or because are self-employed and filed before PUA became available, will have their applications automatically rolled into PUA.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal program which expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to workers not typically able to receive unemployment in the past that were affected by COVID-19, such as:

  • Self-employed workers
  • Farmers/Fishermen
  • Independent contractors
  • Nonprofit employees not already covered by regular state unemployment benefits
  • Gig economy workers
  • Workers who do not have enough work history and earnings to be eligible for traditional unemployment benefits
  • Others who have been determined ineligible for regular unemployment benefits

PUA benefits start at 50% of the average weekly state unemployment benefit for self-employed and those who do not meet monetary eligibility for regular unemployment. In Maine this is $172/week. If you are self-employed, once we can verify documented earnings later this month, PUA benefits may be adjusted retroactively. The maximum benefit available under PUA is $445/week. In addition, anyone who receives a PUA benefit also receives the full $600 additional weekly benefit from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program which is available for claims filed through the week ending July 25, 2020. More information on PUA can be found at

The Department of Labor continues to implement solutions to the challenges created by the sudden and unprecedented levels of questions and claims to meet the needs of Maine people. Claims staff are working extended hours, as well as on Saturdays and holidays, to process applications and contact claimants.

The Department has also contracted with a Maine-based call center to provide claims assistance. About 100 people are answering calls, up from 13 in mid-March. The online unemployment system is performing as designed and is available 24/7.

The Department of Labor recommends that people file their claims online, using a computer as opposed to a smartphone, if possible. The Department has also implemented an alphabetical call in schedule to help reduce phone line congestion to manage capacity to receive and process claims.

Claimants with last names beginning with A-H should call on Monday, I-Q on Tuesday; and R-Z on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are available for those who miss their alphabetical day or need to call at that time.

To apply for unemployment: 1-800-593-7660 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. For password resets and basic questions through a CareerCenter:

For more information and resources, visit the Department's COVID-19 page:

Follow the Maine Department of Labor on Facebook @MElabor and Twitter @maine_labor.