Maine Department of Labor Provides Guidance on Filing for Unemployment to Workers Affected by Federal Government Shutdown Bookmark and Share

October 4, 2013

For Immediate Release: October 4, 2013
Media Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 621-5009

Workers should file claims as soon as possible

AUGUSTA— Federal workers furloughed during the temporary shutdown of the federal government are urged to file for unemployment benefits at . Unemployment insurance provides temporary, partial wage replacement to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own.

“In general, the law of the state of a federal worker’s duty station determines eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits,” explained Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “Federal workers in Maine fall under Maine unemployment rules, as do the employees of private businesses and other public employers.”

This same guidance applies to all workers who have been laid off from public or private entities because of a lack of work or their employer’s lack of ability to pay employees due to the federal shutdown. Laid-off workers can file for unemployment benefits online, by telephone or through the mail. Once their claims have been filed, the workers will receive the Benefits Rights Booklet and weekly claim forms in the mail.

“There are some things it is important for laid off workers to understand,” said the Commissioner. “You can apply as soon as you become unemployed. The first ‘valid’ week is a ‘Waiting Period’ week, so, although no unemployment payment is made that week, you must file a claim to receive credit for the waiting week. You cannot back-date your application to a week prior to the one in which you are filing.”

“Furthermore,” Paquette continued, “there are several critical caveats workers should know about the unemployment benefit system. First, a few workers might not qualify for benefits. In other cases, where staff worked part of a week, the wages they earned might offset the unemployment benefit they would be paid. Finally, if Congress pays federal workers retroactively for the furlough period, any unemployment benefits a worker received must be paid back to the state.”

“Most of the federal furloughed workers have received a letter notifying them that they were being furloughed,” she added. “Some people might not be able to access that letter because they don’t have access to work email or computers. If the department is unable to obtain wage information because the employer is shut down, we will request the claimant to complete an affidavit to verify their wages.”

It will take approximately two to three weeks from the date when a worker files a new claim to receive his or her first unemployment payment. Payments are made in one of two formats, either via direct deposit to a checking or savings account or to a prepaid debit card that can be used at ATMs, financial institutions and anywhere that the Visa logo is displayed but transaction fees apply. Unemployment benefits are taxable as income.

Paquette said, “We advise people to file for benefits online at to avoid waiting on hold on the phone. We are receiving a lot of calls, so there is a long wait time.”

Workers will need to have the following information available when they apply: - Their Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number. - The business name, address and telephone number of each place they worked at during the past 18 months. - The jobs they held and the dates they worked for each employer. - Veterans who separated from the armed forces in the past 18 months will need to provide information from your DD-214. - Federal civilian employees will need to provide information from their SF-8 or SF-50. - Federal civilian employees may need to file an affidavit to verify their wages. That form is available here: . - Documents can be faxed to any claims processing center; the fax numbers for these offices are: Bangor—207-561-4665 or 207-561-4070; Presque Isle—207-764-2142 or 207-764-2143; or Augusta—207-287-5905 or 207-626-6231.

Laid-off workers can file online from any computer connected to the Internet. If workers do not have a computer at home, they can use computers at the CareerCenters or their local library. The list of CareerCenter locations and addresses is available here: .

The toll-free Unemployment Claims line, 1-800-593-7660, is open 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Mondays are high call volume days with 20 to 30 minute wait times. Wait times drop significantly later in the week.

The Maine Department of Labor is an equal opportunity provider. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.