AUGUSTA, Maine — For the week ending June 6, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 3,000 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and an additional 3,700 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These claims represent about 5,400 individuals filing an initial claim.
About 77,700 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment. In addition, about 23,300 weekly certifications were filed under PUA. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits. Data is preliminary and subject to revision. Since March 15, the department has paid out over $720 million in unemployment benefits.
The Maine Department of Labor said it continues its review of all claims as it investigates unemployment impostor fraud. Unemployment impostor 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 of Labor continues to work with its state and federal law enforcement partners to investigate and stop fraudulent unemployment claims filed by criminals using Mainers’ stolen information,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said. “We are working as hard as we can to distribute benefits as quickly as possible, while continuing to fight this criminal activity and maintain program integrity.”
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/.
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.
If you have not yet applied, you can do so at www.maine.gov/unemployment. 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. Roughly 1,800 calls are answered per day. 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 department’s unemployment page: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment.