COVID-19 & the Maine Department of Labor

By April 1, 2020May 1st, 2020COVID-19

The President signed the CARES Act and the Maine Department of Labor has opted in and agreed to accept the temporary federal unemployment programs to provide relief to individuals affected by COVID-19. These programs are not currently available in Maine but, once fully implemented, they will temporarily extend the scope and benefits of the state’s unemployment program. Maine opted-in to the additional $600 per week in benefits and the additional 13 weeks of extended benefits.

As soon as they are available, the following temporary federal programs will bring to Maine claimants and employers:

  • Benefits for those not covered by regular unemployment, including the self-employed, those at home taking care of a child unable to attend school, or whose child-care is unavailable, etcetera.
  • Increased weekly benefits of $600 per week, which will be in addition to the regular weekly benefits.
  • Extended benefits for up to 13 additional weeks beyond the regular amount of up to 26 weeks of benefits, for a total of up to 39 weeks for those who have exhausted current benefits.
  • Support for the layoff aversion program (or Workshare). This program is an option that helps businesses retain their workforce during a temporary slowdown. The program also allows employers to voluntarily reduce the hours of staff in lieu of layoffs. Associates impacted are allowed to collect a partial unemployment benefit to help them offset the loss of income. Employers can find more information on this program can be found at the following website: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/workshare/.
  • Aid to direct reimbursable employers such as offering 50% federal funding of the COVID-19-related benefit claims charges. These are government as well as certain non-profit employers who have chosen to reimburse the cost of unemployment benefits paid out in lieu of paying unemployment taxes.

A comprehensive list of these programs can be found on the state’s website here: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/docs/2020/Unemployment%20Programs%20COVID19%202020-03-30.pdf.

Associates who exhausted all available benefits already or are self-employed should wait to file a claim for benefits. Since these programs have not been implemented yet, filing at this point filing will only result in a denial. Those who have already enrolled in the current program should continue filing weekly certifications. The state also provides partial wage replacement for associates who experience job layoff, as well as loss or reduction in hours through no fault of their own. Anyone who is unsure if they are eligible for unemployment benefits are encouraged to apply for benefits. The state will review any submitted claims – made by both the applicant and the employer – to make a case-by-case determination about eligibility.

The state highly recommends that anyone wishing to apply for benefits do so via their online application. The system is available 24/7 on the unemployment webpage: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/. However, the state can be reached by phone at 1-800-593-7660 between 8am and 12:15pm, Monday through Friday. Because so many individuals have been impacted by COVID-19, the phone queue fills quickly and the state asks for any callers to be patient. For simple questions or for password resets, please call the nearest CareerCenter. More information can be found on the state’s website at their COVID-19 webpage: https://www.maine.gov/labor/covid19/.

Our office will monitor COVID-19 updates closely and will send out additional announcements as we become aware of any these updates. You can also review these updates on our website at http://covid19.thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/ too.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

 

 

Mike Parker

Author Mike Parker

Mike has 30 years of experience in unemployment cost control management, and has been with Thomas & Company for 25 years. He is the primary contact with state agencies building strong relationships, lobbying for opportunities that increase quality of service and efficiencies, and insuring compliance with state specific requirements. He works with the client service team, answering technical questions related to the unemployment insurance programs administered by the individual states and oversees the processes associated with wage audits and fraudulent claim inquiries. Mike is a member of the SIDES Operations Committee and currently sits on four Operations Committee subcommittees.

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