October 1, 2020
For Immediate Release: October 1, 2020
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending September 26
AUGUSTA - For the week ending September 26, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,600 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 1,200 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These claims represent about 2,300 individuals filing an initial claim.
About 24,400 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 17,900 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 10,700 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 900 weekly certifications were filed for the state Extended Benefits program. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.
Between March 15 and September 26, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.57 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 188,800 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 92,800 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 2.4 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 September 26, the Department cancelled about 23,600 initial claims and 1 weekly certification that were determined to be fraudulent.
These cancelled claims are the culmination of initial claims that were identified as potentially fraudulent. The Department holds potentially fraudulent claims and gives individuals the opportunity to verify their identity. These cancelled claims represent a periodic cancellation of claims for which no appropriate identification could be provided.
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 U.S. Department of Justice has put out an Unemployment Insurance Consumer Fraud Protection Guide - https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/docs/2020/USDOJUIFraudConsumerProtectionGuideFinal.pdf with information on unemployment fraud and what to do if you believe your information has been used to file a fraudulent claim.
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/ .
Lost Wage Assistance Program Update:
The Department continues to evaluate people's eligibility for the LWA program, and release retroactive payments to those newly determined eligible at least once a week. LWA payments are released separately from regular unemployment benefit payments. Once payments are released, the timeframe in which an individual receives the payment depends on their individual financial institutions deposit policies.
Maine was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the night of August 25 for Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) funding, which provides retroactive $300 to eligible Mainers for the weeks ending August 1-September 5. FEMA has announced that all states approved for LWA funding receive funds to cover those 6 weeks, and then the program ends.
The Department issued the first round of LWA payments, covering the weeks ending August 1, 8, and 15, the night of September 11. The second round of payments, covering weeks ending August 22, 29, and September 5, were issued September 16.
The Department also continues to send out correspondence to those who need to answer additional questions in order to determine eligibility for LWA. Everyone who is found to be eligible will receive retroactive payments.
If someone had already received LWA payments for which they are eligible, and also received the correspondence, they should still complete the additional question to ensure they receive all payments for which they are eligible.
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.
Eligibility for LWA is determined on a week-by-week basis. Someone may be eligible for some of the covered weeks, but not others. Answers to frequently asked questions about the LWA program are posted on the Department of Labors website: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/ .
Work Search Requirements Reinstated for All Unemployment Claimants Beginning Oct. 4
On September 17, Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order that will reinstate weekly work search activity requirements for all unemployment claimants in order to retain eligibility to receive unemployment benefits, beginning on Sunday, October 4, 2020. The only exception is for individuals in medical quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure.
Work search activity requirements for those who were permanently separated from their employer were previously reinstated on August 9. The executive order applies to those who are self-employed and workers planning on returning to their employer.
The work search requirement is being reinstated now that Maine has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country, and Maine businesses are reopening, actively seeking workers, and are demonstrating that work can be performed safely.
Self-employed individuals will need to attest to engaging in activities designed to fully reopen their business.
The Maine Department of Labor had also previously expanded its definition of "work search" to include work-related activities such as attending skill development seminars or networking events, which makes complying with the work search requirement easier.
Beginning with the weekly certification covering the week of October 4-10, which can be filed starting on October 11, all unemployment claimants will be required to answer questions about their work search activities.
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 include:
- 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
For example, taking a class with Coursera counts as a work search activity. The Maine Department of Labor announced in August that Maine has partnered with Coursera, a leading online learning platform, in its Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative - https://www.coursera.org/government/workforce-recovery . This initiative is designed to support governments worldwide in providing unemployed workers with free access to 3,800 online courses.
The goal of this partnership is to help laid off workers develop the knowledge and skills to become re-employed more quickly. Up to 5,000 unemployed Mainers can sign up to take classes through the Coursera platform.
The registration period for Coursera has been extended through October 31, 2020. Learners enrolled will have until the end of the year to complete the courses. For more information on how to sign up, please contact a CareerCenter: https://www.mainecareercenter.gov .
All claimants are also required to be registered on the Maine JobLink, a free job search tool, where claimants can upload their resumes and employers can post their job openings: https://joblink.maine.gov/ada/r/ .
The CareerCenters hold frequent virtual workshops on how to use the Maine JobLink. To register any of the CareerCenter workshops, please visit: https://www.mainecareercenter.com/employment/workshops.shtml
People can also call their local CareerCenter to schedule a 1:1 appointment with a CareerCenter Consultant to explore work search activity options specific to the persons individual needs.
More information and answers to frequently asked questions on the work search requirement can be found at: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/faq/worksearch/
If an employer has offered work to an employee and that employee refused the work, the employer should notify the Department. A fact-finding would be held to determine if there was good cause for the refusal of work. If no good cause is determined, then the claimant would no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Employers can report refusals of work here: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/ucbr/