AUGUSTA – With President Donald Trump signing bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation, extending federal unemployment programs Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), the Maine Department of Labor is reviewing the legislation and working to implement the changes as quickly as possible, the organization announced in a news release.
“The PUA and PEUC programs ended on December 26. This interruption in the programs will cause at least a one week delay in people receiving their federal benefits. However, we are relieved that the bi-partisan COVID relief package has been signed by the President,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said. “Unemployment benefits are a lifeline for thousands of Maine people right now. MDOL will work as quickly as possible to ensure people can continue to provide the basic necessities for themselves and their families.”
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 temporarily.
Because the legislation was signed after the programs lapsed on Dec. 26, there will be a brief delay in programs restarting, the Maine DOL said.
As was the case with previous federal unemployment programs, states must receive guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor before they can fully implement the changes and begin issuing payments. Having weekly certifications already on file will ensure that payments can be made to eligible individuals as soon as the federal changes are implemented.
In anticipation of the federal programs ending and leaving thousands of Mainers without unemployment benefits, Governor Janet Mills’ administration distributed a one-time $600 payment to over 40,000 people who were unemployed due to COVID-19 on December 21. Now that the programs have been extended, the Department will work to implement the federal changes as quickly as possible. 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.
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.