AUGUSTA — For the week ending January 9, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 3,700 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 700 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
In total, approximately 4,150 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
About 16,900 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 15,100 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 9,000 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, according to a Department of Labor news release, 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. Some of these industries have seen increased impact due to COVID-19.
Between March 15, 2020 and January 9, 2021, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.76 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 224,200 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 106,200 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over three million weekly certifications filed.
On Dec. 27, bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation was signed which extends the federal unemployment programs Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), as well as reinstates and modifies the supplemental weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.
MDOL began issuing the additional $300 FPUC payments the week of Jan. 3 to those receiving unemployment benefits.
While there is no break in benefit eligibility, there may be a brief break in benefit payment for some claimants.
Unemployment claimants who were receiving PUA or PEUC when the programs originally ended December 26 and still had weeks left of eligibility did not see an interruption in payments and have continued to be paid benefits, as well as FPUC, as long as they were otherwise eligible.
Claimants who had exhausted their PUA benefits including or prior to Dec. 26 and were eligible for benefits began receiving payments the week of January 10. Claimants who had exhausted their original PEUC benefits including or prior to Dec. 26 and are still eligible for benefits will begin receiving payments the week of January 17. Eligible claimants will receive retroactive benefits, including FPUC, to week ending January 2.
In order to be paid, they must have weekly certifications on file. 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. Having weekly certifications already on file will ensure that payments can be made to eligible individuals as soon as federal changes are implemented.
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
- 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 10.
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 10.
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.
- FPUC covers weeks of unemployment between Dec. 27, 2020 and week ending March 13, 2021
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.
During the week ending January 9, the Department cancelled 407 initial claims and 2 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 Maine Department of Labor is also warning unemployment claimants and adding extra security measures to protect beneficiaries from fraudulent email "phishing" scams” in which bad actors steal usernames and passwords, use them to log into unemployment accounts, and change the payment information.