AUGUSTA — For the week ending December 19, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 2,950 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 1,900 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
In total, approximately 3,700 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
About 14,300 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 18,200 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 12,300 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’s typically sees increases in state unemployment claims this time of year due to seasonal layoffs that occur every winter, such as in accommodations, eating and drinking places, construction, landscaping, and temporary help, a news release noted. Some of these industries have seen increased impact due to COVID-19.
The majority of the new PUA initial claims and weekly certifications are due to claimants filing for PUA after exhausting their state Extended or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.
Between March 15 and December 19, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.7 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 214,000 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 103,400 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 3 million weekly certifications filed.
Pending Federal Unemployment Extensions
The federal unemployment programs Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) were scheduled to end on December 26, unless Congress took action.
“We are reviewing the recent legislation that was passed by Congress, which must be signed by the President before it can be implemented,” said the release. “The Department is carefully monitoring any subsequent actions by Congress, the President as well as the U.S. Department of Labor so that we can implement any extension of unemployment insurance programs as quickly as possible.”
The Department urges claimants who are still unemployed and receiving benefits under the federal programs to continue to file weekly certifications, even though they may see “no active claim” on their claim summary screen after December 26. This will ensure that when the Department is able to implement the programs approved by Congress, we can release payments to you for the weeks you are eligible for. Please continue to check the website for updates as well: www.maine.gov/unemployment.
Top-line unemployment takeaways from the new legislation are as follows:
Extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Will provide up to an additional 11 weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 50 weeks.
Claimants will be required to provide documentation of eligibility to qualify for PUA beginning Jan. 31, 2021.
PUA will be available until week ending March 13, 2021 (no new applications after that date). Anyone already in the PUA program by that date who has not exhausted their benefits can continue through April 3.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
Will provide up to an additional 11 weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 24 weeks.
PEUC will be available until week ending March 13, 2021 (no new applications after that date). Anyone already in the PEUC program by that date who has not exhausted their benefits can continue through April 3.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
Will provide up to 11 weeks of an additional $300 weekly benefit to eligible claimants.
A claimant must be eligible for an unemployment program (state unemployment, PUA, PEUC) to receive FPUC.
Once implemented, FPUC will be available to cover weeks of unemployment between Dec. 27, 2020 and week ending March 13, 2021.
The Department will work to implement any federal changes to unemployment programs as quickly as possible after they are passed into law. Those who have been receiving benefits under the federal programs should continue to file their weekly certifications, so that payments can be made to eligible individuals as soon as possible.
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.
During the week ending December 19, the Department cancelled 122 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.