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

PUA is a new federal program which expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to certain categories of workers not typically able to receive benefits in the past

AUGUSTA, Maine — Helpful links:

To share information about how the PUA program will work, the Maine DOL has scheduled Zoom presentations on Wed., April 29 and Thurs., April 30. if you plan to attend: plan to attend one to learn how the program works, using the specific Zoom links below. If you don't have Zoom app installed on your phone, you can find it for iOS and for Android:

The Maine Department of Labor (DOL) announced Tuesday it will begin accepting applications for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) at 8 a.m. on Friday, May 1. People whose claim does not require further review should begin receiving benefits within seven days of filing.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal program which expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to certain categories of workers not typically able to receive unemployment in the past, such as:

  • Self-employed workers
  • Farmers/Fishermen
  • Independent contractors
  • Nonprofit employees not already covered by regular state unemployment benefits
  • Gig economy workers
  • Workers who do not have enough work history and earnings to be eligible for traditional unemployment benefits
  • Others who have been determined ineligible for regular unemployment benefits

“These uncertain times have been particularly difficult for our small businesses and self-employed Mainers. I know that waiting for unemployment benefits has been a challenge for many, but help is on the way,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said in a press release Tuesday.

Fortman added all claims will be retroactive to the date of business closure or job separation provided on the application, back until March 15. If work was lost earlier than that due to COVID-19, she said claimants will be able to provide documentation to show that in the near future.

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If you are self-employed, you can now provide documentation of your earnings after you receive your initial benefits. Fortman said Thursday, she made this decision to more quickly put money in the pockets of Maine’s self-employed.The federal Office of the Inspector General has advised that this program will be subject to rigorous audits, and so Maine DOL asks that claimants provide accurate information to the best of their ability.

PUA benefits start at 50% of the average weekly state unemployment benefit for self-employed and those who do not meet monetary eligibility for regular unemployment. This is $172/week. If you are self-employed, once Maine DOL is able to verify documented earnings, PUA benefits will be adjusted retroactively. The maximum benefit available under PUA is $445/week.

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Anyone who receives a PUA benefit also receives the full $600 additional weekly benefit from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which is available through July 25, 2020. Claimants will also need to file a certification every week in order to receive benefits.

To expedite the benefits process, claimants are not required at this time to send Maine DOL paper or electronic copies of documents showing their earnings. The department will let claimants know later in May when these documents should be uploaded to finalize their claims.

According to Maine DOL, claimants under PUA should do the following:

  •  No action needed – Claimants who have been denied unemployment benefits due to not having enough earnings to qualify for state benefits do not need to reapply. Their claim in the system will automatically process.
  •  Claim must be updated – Those who are self-employed and who attempted to file for unemployment benefits before PUA was implemented must log-in to their online unemployment account and update their claim with their self-attestation of earnings.
  •  Claim must be filed – All others eligible for PUA but who had yet not filed a claim will should visit maine.gov/unemployment and fill out the new streamlined application form for PUA. Submit your weekly certification each week thereafter.

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