AUGUSTA — For the week ending August 1, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,600 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 470 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
These claims represent about 1,700 individuals filing an initial claim, per a news release.
About 53,100 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment. In addition, about 26,400 weekly certifications were filed under PUA. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.
Between March 15 and August 1, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.32 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits. By comparison, the Department paid out less than $74 million in unemployment benefits in all of 2019.
The Department has handled approximately 178,200 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 82,900 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been almost 1.95 million weekly certifications filed.
Claims data is preliminary and subject to revision. Claims data can be found here: maine.gov/labor/cwri/ui.html
Newly enacted federal law clarifies billing for direct reimbursable employers
Unlike private sector employers, nonprofit and government employers can choose to either pay into the unemployment trust fund or to cover the cost of any benefits paid out directly at the time of employee separation from the employer.
Private employers must contribute to the unemployment trust fund, providing support so these unemployment resources are available during economic downturns.
Those employers who choose not to pay the unemployment tax are typically responsible for 100% of the cost of any benefits paid to former employees.
The CARES Act provided federal funds to reimburse 50% of the state unemployment benefits after the direct reimbursable employers paid the full cost of benefits.
The Department recognized the hardship this would cause and waited to charge direct reimbursable employers for the cost of unemployment benefits.
As of August 3, Congress passed and the President signed a bill that stipulates states can bill and collect the 50% due from these employers directly, a more streamlined and less onerous process than had been previously required.
The Department will now be updating charges and sending out notices in the coming weeks.
As of December 31, 2019, there were slightly over 1,000 direct reimbursable employers in Maine.
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.
During the week ending August 1, the Department cancelled about 530 initial claims and 520 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 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: maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft/