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About $425 million in unemployment benefits has been paid out to Mainers since March 15

More than 11,500 Mainers filed initial unemployment claims last week.

MAINE, USA — For the week ending May 16, the Maine Department of Labor (Maine DOL) said 4,640 initial claims were filed for state unemployment insurance, and an additional 7,043 initial claims were filed for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Collectively, these claims were filed by more than 11,500 individual people.

“I take the Department’s responsibility to report accurate, concise data about unemployment in Maine seriously, and we will continue to adjust our practices to do so in the wake of new federal programs,” Maine DOL Commissioner Laura Fortman said. “Since March 15, the Department has paid out approximately $425 million in unemployment benefits and we will continue to process claims and deliver benefits for both state unemployment and PUA as quickly as possible.”

According to the Maine DOL, almost 92,000 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment - an increase of about 5,000 over the previous week. 

In addition, about 35,700 weekly certifications were filed under PUA, including for retroactive benefit weeks. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

RELATED: Another 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week

The initial weekly PUA payment for all claimants is $172, which is 50% of Maine’s average weekly unemployment benefit. In the coming weeks, the Maine DOL said it will be sending emails to self-employed recipients of PUA with instructions on how to upload income verification and tax documentation so that their benefits can be adjusted if needed.

Data on initial and continued claims, benefits paid, contributions received, the balance of the unemployment insurance trust fund, as well as other information, is available at https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ui.html.

Benefit payments are retroactive. The Maine DOL sais the additional weekly $600 created by the new Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program is retroactive to the week ending April 4 and is available through July 25, 2020.

RELATED: Maine Department of Labor to accept expanded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance applications starting May 1

If you have not yet applied, you can do so at www.maine.gov/unemployment. Here are instructions from the Maine DOL:

Click on the ReEmployME icon in the bottom left of the page. You will be prompted to create a claimant account, after which you can submit an unemployment claim and file your weekly certifications. Don’t forget to verify your email address and sign up for direct deposit. There is no separate application for PUA. The application process will make the determination of whether you are eligible for state or PUA benefits based on your answers to questions. PUA benefits are available to anyone who is self-employed and does not receive W2 wages, regardless of the profitability of your business.

The Department of Labor recommends filing your claims online with a computer, as opposed to a smartphone, and during evening hours when internet traffic is less congested. The Department has implemented an alphabetical call in schedule to help reduce phone line congestion as the Department ramps up its capacity to receive and process claims. 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.

Phone lines are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and may be reached at 1-800-593-7660. The unemployment line will be closed for the Memorial Day holiday. On regular business days, roughly 1,800 calls per day are answered. Those who are unable to connect with a claims representative should submit a message at www.maine.gov/labor/contact.

For more information and resources, visit the Maine Department of Labor’s COVID-19 page: https://www.maine.gov/labor/covid19/.

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