Unemployment

Updated 05/18/20 at 11:54 AM

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maine Department of Labor and the Federal Government partnered to enhance unemployment, including broadening the pool of eligible workers, extending the benefit period and adding an additional stimulus payment on top of the ordinary payment.

Notably: the monetary threshold (requiring a minimum income), waiting period and work search requirements have been waived

For details, check out our information and videos below:

For speakers of other languages: The Maine Department of Labor has posted translations of their COVID-19 and Unemployment Insurance FAQ. These FAQs can be found through our COVID-19 page, or by going directly to: https://www.maine.gov/labor/covid19/faq/index.shtml This resource, along with the PUA FAQ, is routinely updated .

Self-employed Workers

The Maine Department of Labor is accepting applications for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) . People whose claim does not require further review should begin receiving benefits within seven days of filing.

Eligibility

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
  • Sole Proprietor
  • Single Owner LLC
  • Farmers/Fishermen
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig workers
  • Freelancers
  • 1099 filers

Information that claimants will need in order to apply is available now at: www.maine.gov/unemployment/pua  including a new PUA FAQ

How to Apply

  1. Create a ReEmployME account:  https://reemployme.maine.gov/accessme/faces/users/registerclaimant.xhtml?resGroup=linkaction&_accessNavOutcome_=.registerClaimant&forwardName=registerClaimant
  2. Create a user id and password. Enter and confirm your email address. Check your email inbox for a message with the subject: Maine DOL Accounts: Email Verification. Follow the steps in this message to verify your email address.
  3. Set up direct deposit into your bank account.
  4. File your claim.
  5. File your claim weekly until you are working again.

Tips for Filing as a Self-Employed Worker

Locked out? Need a password reset?

Use the Live Chat function for the Maine Career Center https://www.livehelpnow.net/lhn/lcv.aspx?d=36460&ms=&zzwindow=35206&lhnid=31205&custom1=&custom2=&custom3=&pcv=&opid=0&time=5/1/2020%208:44:19%20AM (When all representatives are busy, the Live Chat function is not displayed.  When a representative becomes available, the function appears.  You may want to refresh your screen periodically.)

or call the Career Center 1-888-457-8883

Slow internet response time or bumped off while filing?

You can file 24 x 7, so you may want to try again in the evening.  Please note: Sundays and Mondays are typically the busiest unemployment filing days.

New filers: There is no limit on the amount of money to be disbursed for unemployment benefits, so while you want to file as soon as practical, you can file later in the week .

Existing applicants: You are required to file weekly while you are unemployed.  Weeks start on Sunday and end on Saturday. As long as you file by Saturday, your claim for this week will be processed.

Did you file previously in 2020 and get rejected for being self employed? or Did you file previously as a W-2 worker and get rejected for for insufficient income?

  • Your application will now be processed; no additional steps are necessary at this time
  • $172 / week retroactive to 3/15 
  • Plus $600 / week from 3/29 – 7/25
  • At the end of May, you will be asked to send information to verify your income; your unemployment benefit may increase
  • The Dept of Labor expects to disburse funds within 7 days of filing.

The claim you filed is previously expired

  • No  need for action on your part – other than to continue to file weekly certifications
  • January – March W-2 worker wages have been reported
  • This is an internal Dept of Labor flag / reminder for them to re-check your eligibility

Contact Details, Password Changes & Direct Deposit Tips

The Benefits Maintenance button has a menu where you can manage your account details

There is currently an issue with the Gender field. Please disregard the error message. Data in the Gender field will not negatively affect processing of your unemployment benefits.

Self-Employed Tips

Have you worked for any employer since October 2018?

If you have not received a W-2 since October 2018 and have been self-employed, click NO. If you are self-employed or a 1099 worker, click NO: self-employed does not equal “working for an employer” as asked by question 4.

If you have chosen NO on Question 4, do NOT select a state for question 5. 

Select the weeks that you were totally or partially unemployed.

  • Enter any income you earned for each week.
  • If you earned income as an employee (with a W-2), report Gross Earnings before taxes.
  • If you earned self-employed income, add your earnings after expenses and keep documentation for business expenses.

Weekly Certification Status

Until your file is reviewed, your Maximum Weekly Benefit will be: $0.00

  • You will receive $172 / week as the minimum unemployment benefit for the self-employed. 
  • In addition, from 3/29 – 7/25, you will receive an incremental $600 / week. 
  • The Dept of Labor expects to disburse funds within 7 days of filing.
  • At the end of May, you will be asked to send information to verify your income and your unemployment benefit may increase.

Sample Determination Letter

File Weekly

Weeks start on Sunday and end on Saturday at midnight; as long as you file by Saturday at midnight, your claim for the prior week will be processed.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULVB8Mhh3Zs

Contacting DOL

  • Self-employment, 1099-recipients, insufficient wage earners: 1-888-413-0820 (M-F 8:00 – 3:00)
  • W-2 recipients, system issues, disbursement questions: 1-800-593-7660 (M-F 8:00 – 3:00)
    • Last names A – H: Mondays
    • Last names: I – Q: Tuesdays
    • Last names: R – Z: Wednesdays

FAQ

As a sole proprietor, can I apply for PUA if I’ve received a PPP loan?
Yes. They just can’t overlap. You are eligible for unemployment benefits before and after your PPP coverage.

How long until I get paid?
DOL is disbursing benefits for applications that do not require follow-up or research (most applications) within 7 days of application. Direct deposits are received sooner than the debit card option.

Why is Maine DOL starting the weekly base benefit at $172?
Federal legislation stipulates that the minimum benefit is half the average weekly state unemployment benefit. If you are self-employed, once DOL can verify documented earnings, PUA benefits may be adjusted up, retroactively. Starting everyone at $172/week base benefit allows them to process claims quickly without reviewing documentation – which means you get your PUA benefit more quickly. Between March 29th, 2020 and July 25th, 2020 all benefits are increased by $600.

What if I already applied and was denied?
If you are self-employed, applied before May 1 and were denied, your application will be automatically processed through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance process. If you are a W2 employee and were denied because you didn’t meet the $5,200 income threshold, your claim will be automatically processed.

Have You Been Denied PUA Unemployment Benefits?

We are hearing from many of our clients that you’ve received a denial letter from the Maine Department of Labor saying “insufficient wages” or that you have “0” benefits. This does NOT mean that you are denied PUA benefits: it is an automatic response from the State system as it moves your claim from traditional unemployment into the PUA system. See their FAQ (question 6) for more explanation and advice about when to check your account.

Can I apply if I still have some income coming in, but it is reduced from what I was earning pre COVID-19?
Yes. There is a place on the weekly certification form for you to enter income; your benefits will be reduced accordingly for weeks when you earned income.

How long will the unemployment payments last?
PUA benefits are available through December 26th for up to 39 weeks.

Is this a first-come, first serve process?
No. This application does not have the same rushed feeling that EIDL loans or PPP loans have had. The system is be open 24/7. 

I got a message indicating insufficent wages – what do I do?

This is an interim message indicating your account is being checked for traditional unemployment benefits. This does not indicate a denial. If you are self-employed or a 1099 recipient or earned insufficient wages as a W-2 worker, you will be put into the pandemic unemployment category. Within 48 – 72 hours most “insufficient wage” notices are changed to 0 Maximium Weekly Benefit – and then in another 48  hours changed to $172 / week retroactive to 3/15 plus $600 / week from 3/29 – 7/25. Most benefits are received within 7 days after the final step.


Unemployment Eligible Workers

  • FT & PT workers at businesses that have temporarily or permanently closed due to COVID-19
  • People working reduced hours/earning reduced income due to COVID-19
  • Taking Unpaid Leave
    • Workers who need to care for their children b/c of school or child care closure
    • Providing care for a diagnosed family member
    • Workers taking unpaid leave due to high risk health
  • Health Issues due to COVID-19
    • Diagnosed with COVID-19 or symptoms and seeking diagnosis
    • Workers told to quarantine for COVID-19
    • Member of household diagnosed
  • Owners who paid unemployment taxes for themselves. 
  • Sole proprietors and self-employed workers who may not pay unemployment taxes for themselves. (See details below)

Filing Details

  • We recommend that you apply online 24×7; (See Claimant Services)
  • If you need to call, the Maine Department of Labor phone lines are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., despite the Patriot’s Day holiday. Alphabetical calling is still in effect: 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. The hours have been extended to 3 p.m. to allow for more calls to be answered
  • Need to file weekly
  • No ‘week waiting period’ to become eligible, although it may take a few weeks to get the first payment and several payments may arrive in the first batch
  • Requirement to search for work is waived

Benefits

  • Workers receiving a W-2/Employees of Businesses
    • visit: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/claimsfaq/
      • See questions: How much will I receive?” and “What is the base period?”
      • OR – Identify your base period – the earliest 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters
        • Average the 2 highest paid quarters of the base period and divide by 22
        • An additional $10 / week is added  per dependent up to one-half of the above.
    • Maximum weekly base benefit : $445 / week
    • Maximum period is 39 weeks.
  • Self-Employed Workers
    • Now – $172 / week retroactive to March 15th or when you became unemployed whichever is later
    • After May 31 – Weekly rate may be adjusted up based on income documents submitted at the end of May; maximum weekly rate = $445
    • If you can prove your business closed earlier than March 15th, may be retroactive (February 2nd is the maximum)
    • Benefits available through December 26th
  • Additional $600 per week for everyone receiving unemployment benefits (W-2 or Self-Employed) for March 29- July 25.
  • Experience rating for the business will not be affected; business is not penalized if their employees file for unemployment related to COVID-19

See also:

Businesses & Employees of Businesses

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic CEI offices are closed to the public. CEI staff will be working remotely and want to hear from you! Please reach out to your CEI contact regarding scheduled meetings and/or any questions/concerns. Click here for a list of COVID-19 Business Resources.
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