August 12, 2021
For Immediate Release: August 12, 2021
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending August 7
AUGUSTA - For the week ending August 7, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 800 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 100 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These numbers represent claim applications; claims are then reviewed for eligibility and legitimacy. In total, approximately 1,000 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
Overall unemployment continued claims continue to decrease, decreasing about 640 from the previous week. About 7,900 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 9,500 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 14,400 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.
For the same time period, roughly 3,100 unemployment claimants reported having partial earnings for the week. In many cases, people receiving unemployment benefits can work part-time and still retain the $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) offered by Congress through September 4, 2021. More information, including a walk-through video and "partial benefit calculator," can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/pub/
Reminder: Federal unemployment benefits end on September 4, 2021. The Department recommends that claimants take advantage of CareerCenter services. CareerCenters host a variety of hiring events - https://www.mainecareercenter.com/employment/hiringevents/ as well as one-on-one meetings with a consultant, to develop employment or training plans. The CareerCenter can be reached by email at MaineDOL.CareerCenter@maine.gov, by phone at 207-623-7981, or by live-chat at https://www.MaineCareerCenter.gov .
Between March 15, 2020 and August 7, 2021, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $2.4 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits. Approximately $1.8 billion of the $2.4 billion was paid through federal unemployment programs.
The Department has handled approximately 272,200 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 113,700 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Note: Claims do not equal the number of unique unemployment claimants. There have been over 4.4 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
Work Search Requirement:
Individuals receiving unemployment are required to actively look for work and to accept positions for which they are reasonably qualified. A refusal to accept an offer of suitable work is grounds for disqualifying a person for benefits. More information on the requirement can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/faq/worksearch/
Whether or not currently unemployed, people looking for work should visit Maine JobLink - https://joblink.maine.gov/ , to find thousands of jobs posted, including remote work. Employers can post their jobs by registering with the Maine JobLink.
Employers who have tried to recall employees or have made job offers that have been declined, or who have scheduled an interview and the potential employee did not attend, can report those by using the following online form - https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/ucbr/ . The Department will determine whether the individual is receiving unemployment benefits, and, if so, determine whether they should remain eligible.
Employers can also participate in the WorkShare program - https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/workshare/ , which is designed to help employers avoid layoffs by allowing groups of workers to receive partial unemployment benefit payments while their employer reduces their hours. The employees are then subject to being called back when work expands.
MDOL Extends Deadline for 'Back to Work' Grant Program to Provide Employers More Time to Submit Applications
MDOL announced - https://www.maine.gov/labor/news_events/article.shtml?id=5325338 that it is extending the application deadline for the State's "Back to Work" grant program to Friday, August 20, 2021. The extension will allow employers who did not file their application by the original August 6, 2021 deadline an additional two weeks to do so.
The program, launched in June 2021 as a short-term grant program to provide Maine businesses with another tool for attracting jobseekers, provides businesses with up to $1,500 grants to offer to qualifying new hires who accepted a job between June 15, 2021 and July 25, 2021.
As of August 6th, 386 employers are participating in the program with the Department finding more than 400 employees provisionally eligible, meaning that if they complete at least eight weeks at their new job they will receive the grant funding. Employees dont need to have completed the full eight weeks required to be eligible before the employer applies - the payroll verification to confirm length of employment will take place at a later stage. Of the 386 employers who have participated in the program, 41 percent were smaller businesses with less than 20 employees. While employer participation crossed multiple industries, the most represented industries were healthcare and social assistance (19 percent), accommodation and food services (18 percent) and retail trade (13 percent). Employers from every county in the state applied for the program.
Maine added 13,700 jobs so far in 2021 and overall unemployment claims are steadily declining. During July 2021, unemployment claims dropped by about 2,000. Meanwhile, CareerCenter staff assisted over 1,300 jobseekers with one-on-one basic employment services, 546 jobseekers honed their skills by attending virtual re-employment focused CareerCenter workshops, and 467 jobseekers connected with employment opportunities through virtual and in-person hiring events.
Next Steps for Employers:
Employers now have through August 20 to submit applications for people hired between June 15 and July 25, 2021. After August20, the Back to Work application program will close and no new applications will be considered.
Once new provisionally eligible employees complete eight weeks of work,employers must then submit proof of payroll to verify their eligibility. Once that is completedand approved, the grant funds will be released to the employer to give to theiremployees. As a final step, employers will need to provide proof of payment to demonstrate the grant funds were passed along to the employee.
More information on the Back to Work program, including access to the application and detailed eligibility requirements, can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/covid19/back-to-work-grants
Maine DOL Participating in U.S. Digital Service UI Service Modernization Research Project
MDOL announced - https://www.maine.gov/labor/news_events/article.shtml?id=5307650 that, along with eight other states, it is participating in a U.S. Digital Service (USDS) - https://www.usds.gov/ research project aimed at modernizing the unemployment insurance service system nationwide.
The two-year research project, which is sponsored by U.S. DOL, will gather input from participating states to help determine what is needed for both shared services and state specific processes.
Goals of the project include:
- Fight fraud utilizing federal data and cybersecurity resources
- Federal support implementing federal programs
- Improve timeliness and accuracy and reduce friction around claim adjudication and appeals to improve customer experience
- Reduce tech burden on states with federally offered IT services as needed
- Rethink customer experience metrics and incentives to add focus on claimant and employer experiences
USDS are designers, engineers, product managers, and procurement experts from diverse backgrounds across the public and private sectors. USDS partners with civil servants to solve critical technology challenges across the government.
Employers can work with the Maine CareerCenters to hold independent virtual, in-person, or drive-through hiring events. Information on upcoming workshops and events: https://www.mainecareercenter.gov .
Upcoming hiring event: On August 15, 2021 from 10 am-2 p.m., the United States Postal Service will be holding a hiring event at the Bath Post Office, 750 Washington Street, in Bath. More information can be found here: https://www.mainecareercenter.com/locations/jobfair.shtml?id=5296966
Reminder: those who receive a denial letter for not providing required documents have 15 days to appeal the decision
As previously announced - https://www.maine.gov/labor/news_events/article.shtml?id=5304036 , about 7,400 unemployment claimants who had received federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits did not provide federally required retroactive documentation by their August 4 deadline. They have been sent a decision denying their eligibility for the PUA program and warning of a possible requirement to repay benefits received. Detailed information and next steps were sent in the mail and in their ReEmployME online account correspondence.
Those who receive a denial decision and believe that they were eligible for the benefits they received can appeal - https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/appeals/ the decision and upload the requested documents within 15 days of the decision. To upload, they can log in to their ReEmployME account and click on 'Correspondences.' They can then select the correspondence titled "PUAP21" or PUAP90 and follow the instructions on how to upload documents for review. Uploading documents does not guarantee the denial decision will be re-determined, and an appeal must still be filed.
A denial decision and overpayment determination would require a claimant to repay any PUA benefits they received since the week ending January 2, 2021. They would also need to repay any Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (additional weekly $300) benefits that were paid for those weeks.
If someone did not collect PUA benefits in 2020 but filed for PUA after 01/31/2021 (including if they are filing a claim for the first time now) they will get a similar notice that requires them to provide the documentation within 21 days of the notice mailing date - claimants should regularly check the correspondence tab in their ReEmployME account and look closely at what their deadline date is if they receive a letter.
More information on how to upload documents, including a walk-through video, can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/puaemployment/.
The U.S. Department of Labor has a website - https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/UIIDtheft for people to understand unemployment insurance identity theft, and how and where to report stolen benefits if they are victims.
The website provides key steps to help victims address issues that might arise because of previous identity theft and outlines steps to report the theft of unemployment benefits. To assist victims, the department worked closely with other federal agencies and state workforce agencies to consolidate necessary steps and resources.
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims, and to evolve its fraud prevention techniques.
During the week ending August 7, the Department cancelled 198 initial claims suspected to be fraudulent.
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/
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.