MAINE, Maine — The Maine Department of Labor has never seen an influx of unemployment claims like this before, then came COVID-19.

According to the department, more than 21,000 unemployment claims were filed last week (March 15-21), compared to just more than 600 claims during the previous week (March 8-14).

Who is qualified for unemployment? 

The DOL says anyone who has lost their job through no fault of their own, who is able and available and looking for work, is typically eligible for unemployment insurance.

Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman says the people who are qualified are “…pretty much anyone who has been working and has engaged in the workforce over the last 15 months. If they've been separated or their hours have been reduced because of this pandemic, they should apply for unemployment insurance.”

Are previously self-employed people eligible for unemployment insurance?

In short, no. Commissioner Fortman says, “Right now, the way the unemployment insurance trust fund works is that employers pay into that trust fund under the first $12,000 of wages their employees earn, and that’s the pool of money that’s being used to pay out the benefits. If you’re self-employed, you do not pay into that program, which is why you’re not eligible typically for unemployment insurance.”  

What do you need to apply for unemployment insurance? 

Your name, your address, your social security number, the name of any employer you’ve worked for in the last 15 months. If you want the money to be deposited directly into your bank account, you’ll also need a routing number. A direct deposit is recommended.

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How long before you see any money after your claim is approved?

“It typically takes anywhere between ten days and two weeks,” says Fortman. “We are definitely on track with that time frame.”

If my claim is rejected, can I file an appeal?

Yes. If you are rejected, that appeal information will be provided to you through the account you’ve created online with the Maine Department of Labor as well as via mail.

How should you contact the Department of Labor with questions about unemployment?

Use the drop-down menu on the website that says “Contact Us,” click “Unemployment Insurance,” and you’ll be prompted to fill out your question there. You can also call the department, but because of an overwhelming number of calls to the office right now, the department suggests calling at non-peak times.

If you have further questions, send them to desk@newscentermaine.com.

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 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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