Labor officials provide Nov. 5 update on unemployment benefits, benefits fraud

Thu, 11/05/2020 - 9:15am

    AUGUSTA — For the week ending October 31, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,700 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 470 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

    In total, approximately 2,500 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.

    About 12,900 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 15,100 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 14,400 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 1,650 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 Available through November 14. The state Extended Benefit (EB) program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who have 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.

    When EB ends, some individuals 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.

    Between March 15 and October 31, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.6 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.

    The Department has handled approximately 196,500 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 96,100 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 2.7 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 October 31, the Department cancelled 1,337 initial claims and 37 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.