Labor officials provide unemployment benefits, fraud updates

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 8:45am

    AUGUSTA — For the week ending January 16, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 3,300 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 1,000 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

    In total, approximately 3,800 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.

    About 17,000 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 14,300 weekly certifications filed under PUA.

    In addition, about 17,850 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.

    Maine typically, per the Maine Department of Labor, sees increases in state unemployment claims this time of year due to seasonal layoffs that occur every winter, for example in Retail Trade, Accommodations and Food Services, Construction, and Administrative and Support Services industries. Some of these industries have seen increased impact due to COVID-19.

    Between March 15, 2020 and January 16, 2021, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.79 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.

    The Department has handled approximately 227,500 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 107,200 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over three 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 January 16, the Department cancelled 336 initial claims and 3 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 continues to evolve its fraud prevention techniques and is adding extra authentication technology to the ReEmployME system. The Department is temporarily holding several hundred claims while awaiting additional verification from the individuals. Individuals whose claims are on hold will be notified by email to call 1-800-593-7660 for further guidance.