MAINE, USA — PLEASE SEE OUR UPDATED UNEMPLOYMENT STORY
The coronavirus pandemic is changing life as we know it—not only from a health and social standpoint but from an economic one. Gov. Janet Mills, health officials, and the White House are encouraging closures, self-quarantine, and most importantly social distancing in order to contain the spread, which means millions of people across the country are without work.
In a three-day span from Sunday, March 15 to Tuesday, March 17, 4,900 Mainers filed unemployment claims with the state. According to state data, that's nearly double the monthly total from last year and the single-highest weekly total since the Great Recession.
Mills has taken steps to ease the economic strain Mainers are feeling; because of a letter written by Mills and the Maine Delegation, Maine is now eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program, which can provide up to $2 million to small businesses.
For individual employees, though, Mills sent emergency legislation that would temporarily extend eligibility to unemployment to workers that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Mills said House Speaker Sara Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson co-sponsored the bill.
Tuesday night, the emergency legislation, as well as other measures to help Maine's COVID-19 response, passed through the House and Senate and was signed by Mills Wednesday morning.
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The emergency unemployment legislation:
“[T]emporarily revises eligibility requirements for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program to include situations not typically covered, such as: 1) employer temporarily ceases operation due to COVID-19; 2) an individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work once the quarantine is over; or 3) an individual leaves employment due to risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member. It also temporarily waives the one week waiting period for benefits so that workers may obtain benefits immediately and ensures that claims for UI will not affect an employer’s experience rating. These temporary measures will help relieve the burden of temporary layoffs, isolation, and medically-necessary quarantine on Maine workers and small businesses. Governor Mills has also urged Maine employers to be generous in their paid leave policies and to allow employees to work from home.
Jessica Picard, communications manager for the Maine Dept. of Labor, says those filing a claim do not need to do anything special if the claim is due to COVID-19. Now that the emergency legislation has officially passed, Maine Dept. of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman explained that since the bill provides additional flexibility and eliminates the one week waiting period, filing your claim now will "just speed up the process."
As long as you file by midnight on Saturday, she says, your benefits for the entire week will not be negatively impacted, since they look at the week as a whole.
If you have already filed, it will still be counted, it will simply take the traditional one week waiting period.
You can file your claim here: https://reemployme.maine.gov
First, you’ll need to create an account, which requires your social security number, name, and birth date. After you create a username and password, you can file your claim.
You can file a claim in Maine if:
- You have worked in the state of Maine or served in the military within the past 18 months.
- You have not filed a claim for unemployment benefits against another state in the past 12 months.
You will need the following information to complete your claim:
- Your Social Security Number;
- Alien Registration Number, if applicable
- The business name, address and telephone number of each place you worked at during the past 18 months;
- The jobs you held and the dates you worked for each employer within the past 18-month period.
You will proceed to fill out the information, which is pretty straight forward. When you get to the part about why you are filing, you can say “lack of work.”
The Maine Dept. of Labor also has detailed filing guides: Guide for using ReEmployME and the ReEmployME Instruction Guide.
Fortman encourages people to file their claims online versus over the phone because phone wait times can be long and the Dept. of Labor simply isn't set up yet for the volume they are now expecting. "[Maine] had a very low unemployment rate before the coronavirus," she said, "so we're staffing up."
Overall, the process is not as intimidating as it may seem, and with Mills' new bill, the process will be faster than before.
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus
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