MAINE, USA — Editor's Note: The above video discusses the reopening of some beaches on Maine's coast, as most of them have been closed due to COVID-19.
A total of about 21,000 unemployment initial claims were filed in the week ending May 9, down from 26,600 the prior week.
About 11,500 of those claims are identified as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program claims.
These numbers are attributed to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Labor began accepting applications for PUA on May 1.
PUA program expands eligibility for unemployment benefits to people not typically eligible to receive unemployment in the past and are directly affected by COVID-19. This includes those who are self-employed and those who do not have enough earnings to be eligible for state unemployment.
Since March 15, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $400 million in unemployment benefits.
The Department of Labor recommends that people file their claims online with a computer as opposed to a smartphone and do so in the evening when internet traffic is less.
The Department has implemented an alphabetical call-in schedule to help reduce phone line congestion.
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.
As the Department continues to expand the number of people taking calls, the call-in hours have been extended to 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Those who are unable to connect with a claims representative by calling 1-800-593-7660 before 3 p.m. Monday through Friday should submit a message at www.maine.gov/labor/contact.
The Department has also created a phone line specifically for PUA questions and claims, available from 8 a.m.- 3 p.m. Monday-Friday: 1-888-413-0820.
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.