AUGUSTA, Maine — Unemployment benefits paid out in Maine have officially surpassed the billion-dollar mark. Since the coronavirus pandemic reached Maine and tens of thousands of people lost their jobs due to closures, the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) says they've paid out more than $1 billion.
Between March 15 and July 4, $1.03 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits have been paid out to Mainers. By comparison, the MDOL paid out nearly $73.9 million in unemployment benefits in all of 2019.
MDOL Commissioner Laura Fortman said, "Infusing $1 billion dollars into the Maine economy has been a lifeline for both workers and communities.”
For the week ending on July 4, the MDOL recorded about 2,800 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance and 2,300 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These claims represent about 2,800 individuals filing an initial claim.
About 62,600 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment. In addition, about 24,700 weekly certifications were filed under PUA. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.
The Department's fraud investigation is still underways and all claims are being carefully reviewed. During the week ending on July 4, about 400 initial claims and 2,400 weekly certifications were determined to be fraudulent, the MDOL says.
All told, so far approximately 25,000 initial claims and 46,400 weekly certifications have been 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 Department encourages anyone who believes that someone else has used their or their employee’s personal information to file a fraudulent unemployment application to notify the Department immediately using this form: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft/.
The investigation is ongoing, and the MDOL says new incidences of potential fraud are identified every day.