August 23, 2020
For Immediate Release: August 27, 2020
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending August 22
AUGUSTA - For the week ending August 22, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,100 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 1,300 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These claims represent about 1,300 individuals filing an initial claim.
About 40,900 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment. In addition, about 23,200 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 August 22, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out about $1.4 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 182,100 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 85,700 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been about 2.18 million weekly certifications filed.
Claims data is preliminary and subject to revision. Claims data can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ui.html
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.
During the week ending August 22, the Department cancelled about 380 initial claims and 50 weekly certifications that were determined to be fraudulent.
Unemployment imposter fraud is when a person's 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/
FEMA Approves Maine's Application for Supplemental Unemployment Assistance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) informed the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) and Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) the night of August 25 that it had approved Maine's application for Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) funding, which will temporarily add $300 to the weekly unemployment benefits of eligible Mainers.
MDOL will administer the Lost Wages Assistance program. Because the program utilizes disaster relief funding through FEMA, which is outside of the unemployment insurance system and the three new programs created by Congress, MDOL is in the process of standing up an entirely new program to administer the benefits. The Department estimates this process will take approximately three weeks, after which it will be able to begin issuing the benefit. FEMA will initially provide full funding for three weeks of benefits and then, upon request, funding on a weekly basis thereafter for as long as the available funds last. Per Presidential Memorandum, the program is set to expire on December 27, 2020.
This funding was made available to states by Presidential Memorandum on August 8, 2020, after an additional $600 weekly unemployment benefit authorized by Congress expired on July 31, 2020. The Memorandum directs FEMA to make available up to $44 billion from its Disaster Relief Fund for financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per current guidance from FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor, individuals are eligible for Lost Wages Assistance if:
- they are eligible for unemployment benefits
- they are eligible for a weekly benefit of at least $100
- they are unemployed, or are partially unemployed, as a direct result of the COVID-19.
Once the program is implemented, benefits will be paid retroactively starting with the week ending August 1, 2020. The payments will be made automatically based on unemployment claims received; individuals will not need to call or apply separately for this benefit.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the LWA program are posted on the Department of Labor's website: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/ . It will be updated as more information becomes available.
MDOL Announced 13 weeks of Additional Unemployment Benefits Available This Week through State Extended Benefits Program
The Maine Department of Labor announced earlier this week that the State Extended Benefit (EB) program, which provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits, was available for Maine people who have exhausted their 13-weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
Individuals who are permanently separated from their employer must engage in work search activities each week in order to be eligible for benefits. EB follows the same work search guidelines as regular state unemployment insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and PEUC.
In response to the circumstances caused by the pandemic, the Department expanded possible work search activities to include opportunities to enhance individual's marketability during these challenging economic times. Work search activities are:
- Attending a job fair/virtual job fair hosted by a CareerCenter
- Participating in CareerCenter virtual reemployment services
- Participating in a CareerCenter virtual workshop
- Applying for a job for which you are reasonably qualified
- Interviewing for a job for which you are reasonably qualified
- Contacting an employer to inquire as to whether the employer is hiring
- Participating in professional job-related education or skills development
- Participating in networking events related to a job or occupation for which you are reasonably qualified
More information and answers to frequently asked questions on the work search requirement can be found at: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/faq/worksearch/