May 21, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 21, 2020
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending May 16
AUGUSTA - For the week ending May 16, 4,640 initial claims were filed for state unemployment insurance, and an additional 7,043 initial claims were filed for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Collectively, these claims were filed by over 11,500 individual people.
To provide added clarity to Maine's unemployment situation, the Department is now separating initial claims for state unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in its weekly reporting. The Department is also now reporting the number of individuals who have filed claims. The number of filed claims and the number of people who filed claims are separate and distinct data, because individuals may have multiple claims counted in the raw claims numbers depending on their individual circumstances or eligibility for certain programs. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.
"I take the Departments responsibility to report accurate, concise data about unemployment in Maine seriously, and we will continue to adjust our practices to do so in the wake of new federal programs," said Commissioner Laura Fortman. Since March 15, the Department has paid out approximately $425 million in unemployment benefits and we will continue to process claims and deliver benefits for both state unemployment and PUA as quickly as possible.
Almost 92,000 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, an increase of about 5,000 over the previous week. In addition, about 35,700 weekly certifications were filed under PUA, including for retroactive benefit weeks. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.
The initial weekly PUA payment for all claimants is $172, which is 50% of Maines average weekly unemployment benefit. In the coming weeks, the Department will be sending emails to self-employed recipients of PUA with instructions on how to upload income verification and tax documentation so that their benefits can be adjusted if needed. Claims data is a reflection of the workloads impacting the state systems, not of individual people filing claims or the number of Maine people who are unemployed.
Maines unemployment rate for April will be released on May 22 at 10 a.m. Unemployment claims are not a direct measure of the number of people who are unemployed. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the unemployment rate for the nation and states from a survey of households.
If you have not yet applied, you can do so at https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/ . Click on the ReEmployME icon in the bottom left of the page. You will be prompted to create a claimant account, after which you can submit an unemployment claim and file your weekly certifications. Dont forget to verify your email address and sign up for direct deposit. There is no separate application for PUA. The application process will make the determination of whether you are eligible for state or PUA benefits based on your answers to questions. PUA benefits are available to anyone who is self-employed and does not receive W2 wages, regardless of the profitability of your business.
The Department of Labor recommends filing your claims online with a computer, as opposed to a smartphone, and during evening hours when internet traffic is less congested. The Department has implemented an alphabetical call in schedule to help reduce phone line congestion as the Department ramps up its capacity to receive and process claims. Last names beginning with A-H should call on Monday, I-Q on Tuesday; and R-Z on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are left unassigned for those who miss their alphabetical day or need to call at that time.
Phone lines are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and may be reached at 1-800-593-7660. The unemployment line will be closed for the Memorial Day holiday. On regular business days, roughly 1,800 calls per day are answered. Those who are unable to connect with a claims representative should submit a message at https://www.maine.gov/labor/contact/ .
For more information and resources, visit the Departments COVID-19 page: https://www.maine.gov/labor/covid19/
Follow the Maine Department of Labor on Facebook @MElabor and Twitter @maine_labor.