MAINE, USA — The Maine Department of Labor says they have cancelled more than 12-thousand fraudulent claims since they started their investigation during the coronavirus, COVID-19 benefit rush.
The department says many legitimate claims that were put on a 48- hour hold last week have already been released but admit there are many other claims that were flagged and now have to be independently verified.
Donna Lane of North Berwick, who was laid off in March, know that all to well.
"It took me 5 1/2 weeks to even get through to unemployment to get an initial claim filed" said Lane.
Once the claim finally went through things were going smoothly until last week when the Maine Department of Labor announced it was temporarily pausing benefits for 48 hours to review claims for fraud.
"That was nine days ago and I still haven't gotten a payment and now there's another payment for last week that is in limbo so they are two payments behind right now."
Donna Lane is not alone.
One look at the Department of Labor's social media pages and you'll see thousands of comments from Mainers who are frustrated angry, some even scared.
In an email to NEWS CENTER Maine the Department of Labor said they were able to release many of the payments that were on hold for the 48 hour period last Thursday. However many other claims were flagged as potentially fraudulent. Those claims show a status of paid, with a date of 9/9/9999 and must be now be verified independently.
"I had to provide a picture of my drivers license picture of my passport because they wanted two forms of government ID and a current photo."
The Department of Labor says it has set up a secure email for those documents which ultimately will be reviewed by law enforcement.
"I don't know how secure that email address is. It's like they have you over a barrel because you can't say no because we need our money, we need money, people have bills and kids to feed."
And questions they desperately want answered.
"People feel like we're just been forgotten" said Lane.
Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman was not at a Labor Committee Hearing in Augusta Thursday to discuss the unemployment issues.
Donna Lane says "it's disappointing and disgraceful to the residents of Maine who have lost their jobs and have been waiting for answers."
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
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