July 9, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 9, 2020
Maine Department of Labor surpasses $1 billion in benefits paid during pandemic
AUGUSTA - For the week ending July 4, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 2,800 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 2,300 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These claims represent about 2,800 individuals filing an initial claim.
About 62,600 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment. In addition, about 24,700 weekly certifications were filed under PUA. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.
Between March 15 and July 4, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out about $1.03 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits. By comparison, the Department paid out nearly $73.9 million in unemployment benefits in 2019.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Department has paid out over $1 billion dollars in state and federal unemployment benefits," Commissioner Laura Fortman said. Infusing $1 billion dollars into the Maine economy has been a lifeline for both workers and communities.
From March 15 to July 4 period, the Department has handled approximately 168,000 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 77,000 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been about 1.6 million weekly certifications filed.
Claims data is preliminary and subject to revision. The official unemployment rate and accompanying economic data for June will be released on July 17, which will give a clearer picture of the state's economy.
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.
During the week ending July 4, the Department cancelled about 400 initial claims and 2,400 weekly certifications that were determined to be fraudulent.
In total, between the week ending May 30 through week ending July 4, the Department has cancelled roughly 25,000 initial claims and 46,400 weekly certifications that were determined to be fraudulent.
To date, the Department has received over 27,000 reports of unemployment imposter fraud, some of which are duplicates if both the employee and employer reported the fraud. The Department has also reinstated almost 11,600 claims to legitimate claimants that had been flagged for potential fraud.
Unemployment imposter fraud is when a persons Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is stolen and used illegally to apply for unemployment benefits. Maine is one of many U.S. states working in close collaboration with state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate and prevent it.
The Department encourages anyone who believes that someone else has used their or their employees personal information to file a fraudulent unemployment application to notify the Department immediately using this form: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft/ .
The investigation is ongoing, and new incidences of potential fraud are identified every day.
Those whose claims were cancelled for suspected fraud or whose claim has been flagged for potential fraud (showing a paid date of 9/9/9999), must verify their identity in order to reinstate the claim. To do so, claimants should go online to the ReEmployME homepage at https://reemployme.maine.gov and follow the below directions:
Select Upload Documents for Identity Verification located just above the login link and provide the following: TWO forms of identification (scans or photos are okay), one of which must be a government issued photo ID.
Government issued photo IDs are:
- Drivers license
- Military ID
- Federal or State employee ID
Non-photo documentation could include:
- A recent utility bill that shows your name and residential address
- Social Security Card
- Birth certificate
To expedite verifications, law enforcement officers from the Maine Department of Corrections are working with the department on a temporary basis to review identity documentation. Documentation will be worked through in the order it is submitted to the Department. As claims are reviewed and determined to be valid, payments are released.
Data on initial and continued claims, benefits paid, contributions received, the balance of the unemployment insurance trust fund, as well as other information, is available at https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ui.html .
Note: Claims data is production numbers, and do not equal the amount of individual people filing a claim.
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. Roughly 2,000 calls are answered per day. 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 unemployment page: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment .
Follow the Maine Department of Labor on Facebook @MElabor and Twitter @maine_labor.