March 18, 2021
For Immediate Release: March 18, 2021
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending March 13
AUGUSTA - For the week ending March 13, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,900 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 300 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In total, approximately 2,600 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
About 15,600 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 13,600 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 19,800 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 March 13, 2021, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out nearly $2 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 244,450 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 109,700 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Note: Claims do not equal the number of unique unemployment claimants. There have been over 3.5 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/RPnj27 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.
Federal Unemployment Programs Extended by American Rescue Plan
On Thursday, March 11, 2021 the American Rescue Plan was signed into law by President Biden. This law includes several provisions that extend federal unemployment programs.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) extended:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants were previously eligible for up to 50 weeks of benefits. Now, they will be eligible for up to 79 weeks of benefits. The additional weeks will be added to PUA claims automatically; claimants should just continue to file their weekly claims.
- NOTE: If a claimant previously exhausted their 50 weeks of PUA, they will be able to begin certifying again beginning Sunday, March 21, 2021. Week-ending March 20, 2021 is the first week the PUA continuation takes effect. Based on the federal law, there are no back weeks available for those who previously exhausted PUA. If someone exhausted their previous PUA benefits and has not filed a weekly claim within the last two weeks, they will need to go online to reopen their claim.
- PUA as a whole will be extended through September 4, 2021, but claimants may exhaust their individual 79 weeks before that date.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extended:
- The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program previously provided up to 24 weeks of additional benefits to claimants who exhausted their regular state Unemployment Insurance benefits. Now, it will provide up to 53 weeks through September 4, 2021.
- If a claimant is already collecting PEUC, no additional action is needed.
- Those who had already exhausted their previous PEUC benefits should follow the same process outlined above for those who exhausted their PUA benefits. $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) extended:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $300 per week on top of a claimant's weekly benefit amount, has been extended through September 4, 2021.
- Claimants will continue to receive FPUC automatically as long as they continue to file weekly claims.
Tax Relief for Unemployment Claimants:
- Both the state supplemental budget and the federal American Rescue Plan include $10,200 of tax relief for unemployment claimants. This does not affect unemployment claims or accounts. Claimants should check with the IRS and MRS for further details and guidance on tax relief.
- More information from the IRS can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-statement-american-rescue-plan-act-of-2021?fbclid=IwAR2Ls7GEYk1A4bT4yq2MdtjRC5QzFPqEunewjtWDAuzZjwM9GF3hSVH3aqU
Assistance for Employers and the State Unemployment Trust Fund:
- Governmental entities and nonprofit organizations are relieved of 75% of the benefit costs for COVID-related unemployment claims, an increase from the 50% previously funded, through September 4, 2021.
- Full federal funding of the first week of benefits is restored, after dropping from 100% to 50% with the previous extension, through September 4, 2021.
- Full federal funding of benefits paid through the Workshare program, through September 4, 2021. Additional Information: - Any updates or additional information will be posted at https://www.maine.gov/unemployment
Some Claimants Starting New Benefit Year
COVID-19 has created the need for extended unemployment, and there are now a number of people who are coming to the end of their benefit year.
If an individual filed their unemployment claim a year ago, their benefit year may be expiring soon. A benefit year is the 52-week period following the date someone filed their initial claim. For example, if someone filed a claim in March 2020, their benefit year would end in March 2021 and a new one would need to be established if they are still eligible to collect benefits.
The Department will need to review these claims to determine whether someone qualifies for regular state unemployment benefits on this new benefit year, especially if they are currently collecting on one of the federal programs.
For some, a new benefit year will be automatically established. Others will receive a system prompt to file a new benefit if the prior one has expired. If someone is receiving benefits through PUA or PEUC, the system will in most cases complete the eligibility review automatically. If they do not qualify for state unemployment, they will receive a denial letter for state unemployment benefits on the new benefit year and continue to receive benefits through the federal program until they have exhausted it or the program ends.
If someone worked since they filed their claim last year, have out of state wages, Federal Civilian wages, Military wages, or have been on Workshare within the past year, their claim may require additional review to determine eligibility.
If the system prompts an individual to file a new benefit year, from their account they should navigate to "Unemployment Claim" and File Unemployment Claim to complete this process. We recommend they do so as soon as they receive the notification to avoid missing out on eligible claim weeks.
Claimants should continue to file their weekly claims for benefits, even if an eligibility review is pending. If otherwise eligible we will process all eligible pending weeks for payment once the review is completed.
MDOL Warns Public of Texting, Telegram, and Social Media Scams
The Maine Department of Labor is warning the public of scammer's attempts to phish individuals personal information via social media platforms and text messages. Scammers are creating social media pages and accounts on direct message apps such as Telegram to mimic the Maine Department of Labors and are asking people to direct message them via these fake pages for unemployment help. The Department is working with social media platforms to remove the fake pages as they pop up.
For Facebook users, look for the Departments verified blue checkmark. The Maine Department of Labor will never ask for sensitive information via social media or direct messenger.
Scammers are also texting the public asking them to click links for information about their unemployment benefits. The Maine Department of Labor does not conduct business via text.
The Department is asking the public stay vigilant, never share personal information through social media or text, and to report fake social media pages immediately.
MDOL Recommends Unemployment Claimants Call Thursdays and Fridays
If unemployment claimants have a question about their claim, the Department recommends that they call the unemployment phone line, 1-800-593-7660, between 8 am and 3 pm Monday-Friday. Call wait times continue to decrease on all days, however Thursdays and Fridays remain the days when call volume is at its lowest and usually have shorter wait times.
They can also leave a message 24/7 at https://www.maine.gov/labor/contact/index.html . They should only put in one message to avoid duplication.
Virtual Hiring Events
Employers can work with the Maine CareerCenters to hold independent virtual and drive-through hiring events. The next virtual hiring event is for Construction Trades positions on March 25 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: https://www.mainecareercenter.gov
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims, and to evolve its fraud prevention techniques.
During the week ending March 13, the Department cancelled 417 initial claims 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.
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 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 still in effect for all unemployment claimants. The only exception is for individuals in medical quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure.
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
Self-employed individuals need to attest to engaging in activities designed to fully reopen their business, or to one of the above activities.
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/
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/labor/unemployment/
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/