AUGUSTA, Maine — Since March when the coronavirus pandemic reached Maine, the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) has seen a total of 162,000 unemployment claims filed. In recent weeks, the department has been investigating fraudulent claims and canceling thousands of claims as a result.
The MDOL explains that unemployment imposter fraud is when a person’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is stolen from outside the unemployment system 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.
“Based on the experience of other states, the amount lost to fraud may be in the tens of millions,” the department says.
For the week ending on June 20, 2,900 initial claims were filed and an additional 2,700 filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for a total of about 4,500. Of those, the MDOL canceled about 1,900 claims due to suspected fraud, and 4,300 weekly certifications were also canceled.
“We recognize that some legitimate claims are being held as part of this crucial effort,” MDOL Commissioner Laura Fortman said in a release. “We are working as quickly as possible to separate the valid claims from claims filed by criminals. To date, we have reinstated about 9,700 claims to hardworking Mainers.”
Here’s a breakdown of the data.
Week ending June 20
- 4,500 initial claims—1,900 canceled
- 64,400 weekly certifications (plus additional 26,400 weekly PUA certifications)—4,300 canceled
Week ending May 30-June 20
- 23,900 initial claims canceled
- 41,000 weekly certifications canceled
- 162,000 initial claims (72,400 for PUA program)—24,700 reported as fraud
- 1.4 million weekly certifications
- More than $882 million paid out
Explore the data here.
“We continue to see lower numbers of claims being filed. We believe that this trend will continue as businesses continue to reopen and the economy improves,” Fortman said.
At 11 a.m. Thursday the Fortman and Deputy Commissioner Kimberly Smith will hold a legislative briefing via Zoom to give an update on the Department's work on unemployment.
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/.