December 17, 2020
For Immediate Release: December 17, 2020
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending December 12
AUGUSTA - For the week ending December 12, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 3,100 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 900 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In total, approximately 3,900 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
About 13,900 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 17,200 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 12,500 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 85 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.
The majority of the increase in state unemployment claims is due to seasonal layoffs that occur every winter, such as in construction and landscaping. The majority of the new PUA initial claims and weekly certifications are due to claimants filing for PUA after exhausting their state Extended or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.
Between March 15 and December 12, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.7 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 211,000 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 101,600 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 2.96 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 Reminder that the federal CARES Act unemployment programs (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation) are scheduled to expire on December 26, unless Congress takes action.
CareerCenter services - https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/MEDOL/bulletins/2aa7228?fbclid=IwAR1phq7T51IZVDHcboJ4A2KOY7DKEE22YAiBCYaFT1iAz9u-m7FI4aX1k are available to help people identify and take next their steps. It is a requirement that those receiving unemployment insurance benefits also be registered on the Maine JobLink, which includes a weekly newsletter for job seekers highlighting opportunities and training.
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud. During the week ending December 12, the Department cancelled 147 initial claims and 2 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:
One-Time Relief Payment for Mainers Unemployed Due to COVID-19
Governor Janet Mills and Commissioner of Labor Laura Fortman announced last week that the Administration will provide certain individuals who are unemployed due to COVID-19 with a one-time direct relief payment of $600 through the State's newly-created Pandemic Relief Program (PRP). The relief payment is meant to assist unemployed Maine people at a time when they continue to face substantial economic hardship as a result of COVID-19 and are losing their Federal unemployment benefits at the end of the month unless Congress acts.
Governor Mills authorized the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) to distribute the payment using $25.2 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF). The one-time payment, which is not an unemployment benefit, will be distributed to those who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19. They must have either exhausted PUA or PEUC benefits on or after week ending November 14 or have previously established a COVID-19 related claim, meet the requirements of the unemployment program, and have filed certifications for weeks ending December 5, 12, or 19.
The one-time payment will be made by the end of December to the individuals account or debit card on file with the unemployment program. Eligibility is based on existing unemployment claim information. There is no need for claimants to call or apply separately for this supplemental benefit. All payments under PRP will be completed by the December 30, 2020 deadline as established by the U.S. Treasury for the disbursement of Federal CARES Act Funding.
For more information on the PRP, visit https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/.
Work Search Related Activities Requirement:
Weekly work search related activity requirements are in effect for all unemployment claimants. The only exception is for individuals in medical quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure.
Self-employed individuals 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, some resources through the Maine State Library count as a work search activity. Below are brief descriptions of the services and links to them on the Digital Maine Library.
Learning Express Library: https://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?db=lel
- Career Preparation includes: exploring new careers, including health care and green jobs; preparing for career exams, such as nursing assistant or real estate salesperson
- Computer Skills includes everything from basic computer operation to specific Microsoft software
- Adult Core Skills are geared at improving math and reading skills
Pronunciator: https://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?db=pll - Learning a second language can be useful personally and professionally
Petersons Career Prep: https://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?db=pcp
- Resume development
- Career exploration
- Other job-related guidance
Minimize Risk of Overpayments:
The Department would like to remind claimants that failure to participate in work search related activities will likely result in overpayments, which may need to be repaid by the claimant. Overpayments of funds paid through the PUA program cannot be waived.
If an individual has not participated in work search related activities for more than one week, the Department will contact them to ask why they didnt complete a work search activity. This is called a fact-finding interview. They can choose to do this by completing a questionnaire sent to them, or over the phone with a department representative. Based on this fact-finding interview, the Department will determine if they were eligible for benefits for that week. If benefits were already paid for a week but they were later denied as a result of this review, the benefits for that week may have to be repaid to MDOL.
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/