October 29, 2020
For Immediate Release: October 29, 2020
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending October 24
AUGUSTA - For the week ending October 24, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,500 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 700 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This represents about 1,800 individuals filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
About 14,700 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 16,600 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 14,400 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 700 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.
NOTE: Extended Benefit Program Likely to End Mid-November. The state Extended Benefit (EB) program is the program that provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who have exhausted both their state unemployment insurance and then federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
The EB program is only in effect during times of high unemployment. EB begins when the 13-Week Average Insured Unemployment Rate is 5.00% or higher and the 13-Week Average Insured Unemployment Rate is 120% more than the average for the last 2 years for the same time period. EB began in May 2020 and is likely to end mid-November.
When EB ends, those receiving EB who are still eligible will be moved to PUA for the remainder of their eligibility.
** The 39 weeks of PUA are reduced by the number of weeks already paid under state unemployment and EB.
Between March 15 and October 24, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.6 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 194,800 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 95,700 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 2.67 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 October 24, the Department cancelled 588 initial claims and 18 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 Maine Department of Labor is also warning unemployment claimants and adding extra security measures to protect beneficiaries from fraudulent email "phishing" scams" in which bad actors steal usernames and passwords, use them to log into unemployment accounts, and change the payment information.
The Department was notified by the U.S. Department of Labor of scams happening across the country and is taking proactive action to review and prevent impact on Maine claimants. The Department has also received reports of phishing attempts in Maine.
Some phishing attempts mimicked the Maine Department of Labor and provided a link to reset a password, or a link to look at recent account activity.
The Department will never send a password reset email that wasn't requested by the individual. If someone did not request a reset and receives one of these emails, they should immediately delete the email and not respond. If they receive an email requesting they look at the recent activity in their account, they should not click on any links in the email, and instead go straight to their account.
Claimants log-in information could also be potentially obtained by criminals if someone uses the same log-in information for multiple websites and that log-in information is compromised. The Department strongly recommends that claimants use a password that is unique to their unemployment account and is not used for anything else.
The Department continues to evolve its fraud prevention techniques and is adding extra authentication technology to the ReEmployME system. The Department is temporarily holding several hundred claims while awaiting additional verification from the individuals. Individuals whose claims are on hold will be notified by email to call 1-800-593-7660 for further guidance.
What unemployment claimants should do to protect themselves:
- Before filing their next weekly certification, they should go to Benefits Maintenance > Payment Options to verify their current payment information and update as needed.
- Click on the link in Benefits Maintenance to verify their email address. This will generate an email with instructions on how to complete the process.
- After verifying their email, the Department recommends changing their password to one that is not being used in any other online system. They will need to verify their email account before creating a new password by hitting forgot password on the log-in page. This will also generate an email within which they will need to click on a link. Passwords should not be shared with anyone.
- Unsolicited emails about resetting passwords should be immediately deleted.
- If unemployment benefit payments for prior weeks filed appear to have been redirected to a bank account that is not theirs, they should contact the Department.
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.
There are some claimants who have fact-finding issues that must be resolved before LWA can be paid. 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.
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 Began Oct. 4
On October 4, 2020, weekly work search related activity requirements for all unemployment claimants were reinstated. The only exception is for individuals in medical quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure.
The work search activity requirement was 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.
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 - Working part-time
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 .
A video on how to file work search related activities questions if taking a Coursera course can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZkJT-nHR1w&feature=youtu.be
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: http://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, videos, 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/