February 25, 2021
For Immediate Release: February 25, 2021
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending February 20
AUGUSTA - For the week ending February 20, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 2,150 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 250 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In total, approximately 3,000 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
About 16,800 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 13,300 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 19,300 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.
Between March 15, 2020 and February 20, 2021, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.9 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 239,400 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 109,050 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 3.4 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
CareerCenter services - https://lnks.gd/2/PrVJ7X 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.
User Experience Updates to ReEmployME Implemented Today:
As part of its ongoing initiative to improve the experience and usability of its services, the Maine Department of Labor has rolled out updates to the ReEmployME unemployment system today.
MDOL is introducing a more intuitive and user-friendly weekly claim form and a weekly claim status dashboard to help claimants keep track of their weekly unemployment claims. Claimants must submit weekly claims in order to receive unemployment benefits.
The weekly claim process still has three steps: reporting work search activities, completing a weekly certification, and submitting the weekly claim. This update makes the overall process easier the forms are easier to read, file, review, and submit.
Improvements to weekly claim filing and display of status information for submitted claims include: - New weekly claims screen: Claimants will be able to see all of the weeks available to file on one screen and where they are in the three-step process for each week. - Easy step by step work search reporting: Claimants will now be guided through the work search reporting and only see questions relevant to their situation. This should help eliminate the need to guess the correct response to questions that are not relevant to them, reduce errors, and make the overall process easier and, for some, faster. - "What does this mean?" helper text: The helper text for questions has been improved to give clearer definitions around terms like self-employed, odd job, and medical quarantine. Where applicable, concrete examples have been added to explain, for example, correct reporting, work search activities, and wages. Simply click on the What does this mean? link next to a question for more information. - Improved usability especially on mobile devices: Claimants will notice changes in how the weekly claim looks. The pages' layout and structure have been optimized for both web and mobile so it will be easier to file from any device.
The new status dashboard will make tracking weekly claims and understanding unemployment benefits easier. The new status page will include:
- Weekly claim dashboard: Claimants will be able to view the statuses and amount paid for each submitted weekly claim on one screen. At a glance, claimants will be able to see which weeks were paid and which weeks are still processing or need further attention.
- Clear status language and detailed explanations: Claimants will be able to expand each weekly claim and see a detailed explanation of the status on their claim. We have eliminated statuses like issue on file and provided statuses that are more specific and easier to understand.
- What MDOL is doing and your next steps, if necessary, to ensure you receive your eligible benefits in a timely manner: If necessary, statuses will describe clear next steps on how to resolve the issue and tell you what actions MDOL is taking to resolve the issue as well. Walk-through guides of the changes for claimants will be posted on our website: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/weeklyclaims/ Beginning in January, unemployment claimants also began seeing confirmation pages in ReEmployME and receiving confirmation emails after successfully filing an initial or weekly claim. The confirmation emails let individuals know that the Department has received their claim and explains the review process and next steps. The Department has also reviewed and re-written multiple correspondence that are sent to unemployment claimants and employers, making the language simpler and the format more straightforward.
Upcoming Virtual Hiring Event for Logistics, Supply Chain, and Commercial Driving Employment:
Maine CareerCenters are hosting a virtual hiring event for Logistics, Supply Chain, and Commercial Driving positions on March 4 from 2-3:30 p.m. Job seekers can register by using the online form. Employers can register by contacting Leo Deon via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on upcoming workshops and events: More information: https://www.mainecareercenter.gov
Looking to hire? Employers can work with the Maine CareerCenters to hold independent virtual and drive-through hiring events. More information: https://www.mainecareercenter.gov
MDOL Seeking Employer and Jobseeker Input
MDOL is in the process of enhancing the employment services that it provides and is seeking employers' input. The Department is looking for employers to share any experiences they might have had with either: - Communicating with/hearing from the MDOL Bureau of Employment Services - Using MDOLs employment and workforce services We are also looking for feedback from job seekers as we continue making our services easier to use. We are looking for people to share any experiences they might have had with either: - Using services offered by Maine CareerCenters, including the CareerCenter website, workshops, JobLink, and job fairs. - Communicating with/hearing from MDOLs Bureau of Employment Services - Looking for work during the COVID-19 pandemic
Participants will have the option of providing feedback through a 30-minute self-recorded video journal on a simple downloaded app, or a 30-minute 1:1 virtual interview.
Employers interested in participating can complete a survey at this link: https://forms.gle/iGZmgQUtKMYitQbFA
Job seekers interested in participating can complete a survey at this link: https://forms.gle/KYYvERYEKPNFuwQa6
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.
During the week ending February 20, the Department cancelled 815 initial claims and 2 weekly certifications suspected 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/
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.
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/