Labor officials provide Nov. 19 update on unemployment benefits, benefits fraud

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 8:30am

    AUGUSTA — For the week ending November 14, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 2,000 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 300 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

    In total, approximately 2,550 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.

    About 11,800 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 13,900 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 13,900 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 2,200 weekly certifications were filed for the state Extended Benefits program. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

    NOTE: Extended Benefit Program Ended November 14.The state Extended Benefit (EB) program provided up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who exhausted both their state unemployment insurance and then federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

    The EB program is only in effect during times of high unemployment. EB is in effect when the average insured unemployment rate for the last 13 weeks is at least 5% and is more than 120% of the average for the last two years for the same time period. The insured unemployment rate is based on weekly claims for state unemployment benefits, and is different than the unemployment rate announced each month.

    Some individuals who were receiving EB may be eligible for PUA benefits. PUA is available for people affected by COVID-19 and who aren’t eligible for or who have exhausted the other available programs. PUA provides benefits for 39 weeks but is reduced by the number of weeks of state unemployment and EB already paid. They should continue to file weekly certifications so that eligibility can be determined.

    Reminder that CareerCenter services are available to help people identify and take next their steps. The Department recommends that individuals register on the Maine JobLink as well, which includes a weekly newsletter for job seekers highlighting opportunities and training.

    Between March 15 and November 14, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.66 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.

    The Department has handled approximately 200,800 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 96,700 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 2.8 million weekly certifications filed.

    Fraud Update

    The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.

    During the week ending November 14, the Department cancelled 1,900 initial claims and 25 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.