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Additional $600 in unemployment benefits coming next week, call-in times extended

The unemployment phone lines will now be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Mainers who are receiving unemployment benefits will soon see a $600 bump in payments beginning early next week, the Maine Department of Labor said Tuesday. 

The additional funds were made possible through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and applies to all states, some of which have already gotten the benefits applied. 

The funds will be received concurrently with claimants' current benefits, the Dept. of Labor said, and will be retroactive in coordination with the enactment of the legislation and the individual's loss of employment. The extra $600 a week will continue until July 25, if the claimant remains eligible. 

No additional action is needed in order for the extra money to be applied to the benefits, but in order to receive the $600 benefit, an individual must have an existing unemployment insurance claim, continue filing weekly certifications, and be eligible to receive benefits.

RELATED: States get guidance from U.S. Dept. of Labor over extra $600 in unemployment benefits

“We know that unemployment benefits are a crucial lifeline for people and their families, especially during these unprecedented times,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said. “The Department has been working to implement the new federal programs as quickly as possible. Thanks to the tireless efforts of staff, Mainers will begin seeing the additional $600 early next week."

207's full interview with Commissioner Laura Fortman:

The Department is still working to implement the other new federal unemployment programs created by the CARES Act, such as benefits for those who are self-employed, and those who have exhausted their current benefits.

The Dept. of Labor is also extending phone line hours for the unemployment office to 3 p.m. The department had previously implemented an alphabetical call-in schedule. Last names beginning with A-H should call on Monday, I-Q on Tuesday; and R-Z on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are left unassigned for those who miss their alphabetical day or need to call at that time.

RELATED: New call schedule for unemployment claims starts Monday

The department recommends filing claims online with a computer rather than a smartphone, and filing in the evening when internet traffic is lower. 

Those who are unable to connect with a claims representative by calling 1-800-593-7660 before 3 p.m. Monday through Friday should submit a message at www.maine.gov/labor/contact.

Claims staff are working to process applications and contacting claimants who have errors on their applications, and the department has hired new staff as well as brought back retirees to help with the influx of calls and claims. 

Unemployment resources:

RELATED: Your questions about filing for Maine coronavirus unemployment answered

RELATED: Unemployment claims in Maine hit highest weekly total on record amid coronavirus, COVID-19

RELATED: If you lost your job due to coronavirus COVID-19, here's how to file for unemployment in Maine