Maine Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Maine is provided to workers as temporary financial assistance to those who have lost jobs. The workers looking to apply for UI benefits must meet all the qualifying criteria set by the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) to gain eligibility.
Applicants need to be aware of important information such as eligibility criteria, ways to apply, training opportunities, etc. to file an application successfully. Read on to learn more about the UI benefits program offered by the state of Maine.
Eligibility To Apply For UI Benefits In Maine
In order to be eligible for UI benefits, the applicants must have enough wages in the base period. Along with wages, applicants must also adhere to the job-separation requirements and must be able and available to work during the base period.
Applicants must have earned the required amount of wages in the base period to stand a chance to gain eligibility for UI benefits.
Before elaborating on the eligibility conditions, it is important to explore the definitions of some of the keywords used by Bureau of Unemployment Compensation (BUC) to get a better understanding of the process:
Base Period: A base period is a 12-month period that consists of four calendar quarters, in which wages earned by the applicants will be taken into consideration for eligibility. The beginning of the base period will depend on the date of filing an unemployment claim.
Calendar Quarter: A calendar quarter is a set for three months which are used in calculating the wages of the applicants. A base consists of four calendar quarters which will be divided as:
Regular Base Period: A regular base period is when The MDOL looks at the applicant’s earnings in the first four of the last five calendar quarters.
Alternative Base Period: If an applicant does not meet the wage requirements for the regular base period, the MDOL will then take the alternative base period calculation into consideration.
As per this method, the MDOL will consider the last four completed calendar quarters prior to the date you filed for benefits.
Benefit Year: The benefits year starts from the Sunday of the week in which the applicant filed for his or her initial claims, which lasts for the 52 weeks from the time of application. However, the applicant is eligible for benefits for at most 26 weeks within the benefits year.
Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA): The WBA is the amount that the applicants receive at the end of every week. The WBA is determined by dividing the average wages received in the two highest quarters of the base period by 22. For instance, if the wages received in the two highest quarters is $2,200, the WBA will be (2,200/22) $220.
The maximum WBA a claimant can receive in Maine is $445 if he or she has no dependents, whereas applicants with dependents can claim upto a maximum limit of $667.
Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA): The MBA is the maximum amount of benefits an applicant can receive in a benefit year. The MBA is usually 26 times the WBA or one-third times the total base period wages, whichever is lesser.
To meet the monetary requirements, applicants must:
- Must have received at least two times the annual average weekly wage in Maine within two calendar quarters. For the year 2019, wages in two quarters must be a minimum of $1,713.58
- Once the monetary eligibility is established, the MDOL will send you a Monetary Determination Letter. The letter will contain information on your WBA and MBA, which is an indication that you have become eligible for UI benefits.
Once the monetary eligibility is established, the MDOL will send a Monetary Determination Letter. The letter will contain information on the WBA and MBA, which is an indication that the applicant has become eligible for UI benefits.
Once the applicant receives the letter, he or she should make sure to verify that all the information the letter contains (which includes the wage details during his or her base period) is correct.
The reason for separation plays a crucial role in determining the eligibility criteria of the applicants. The state of Maine mandates that the applicants must not have lost their jobs due to their fault and that they must be laid off due to lack of work.
Maine classifies the reason for separation into various categories, they are:
Quitting a Job
Voluntarily quitting a job is not an acceptable reason for separation. If it is found that the applicant has voluntarily quit his or her last job, an adjudicator will be appointed to decide if he or she is eligible for benefits or not.
The adjudicator will judge the case by establishing if the applicant has a “good cause” to quit the last job. If it is found out that indeed the applicant had a good cause, he or she will be eligible for benefits.
Some of the reasons that are considered as ‘good cause’ are- illness (the applicant must be cured by the time he or she is applying for benefits), leaving to accept a new job (the offer for the new job was withdrawn after separating from the previous organization), accompanying spouse to a different city/state, or leaving due to domestic abuse.
The applicants must make sure to provide adequate evidence to the adjudicator to establish the cause for separation.
Getting Fired From A Job
If the applicant was fired from his or her previous job for reasons such as misconduct, unethical behavior, or practicing illegal activities, he or she will not be eligible for UI benefits. In such a case, to gain eligibility in the future, the applicant will need to have wages that are eight-times the WBA.
If the applicant was suspended from work, he or she will not be eligible for benefits. The disqualification will remain until the end of the period of suspension.
If the applicant retired voluntarily or retired under a recognized company program, he or she will not be eligible for UI benefits. The applicant will remain disqualified unless he or she has learned six-times the WBA.
If the applicant has participated, financed or held any form of stakes in a strike or lockout resulting in stoppage of work, he or she will be disqualified from receiving UI benefits.
To know more about the eligibility status with respect to job separation, one can try out the eligibility calculator and determine the eligibility for benefits.
The role of the applicants in maintaining their eligibility status does not end once they become eligible for UI benefits in Maine. The applicants must adhere to all the rules and regulations until the end of the benefit period to successfully receive the benefits without any hindrances.
Some conditions set by the MDOL that an applicant must follow are:
- The applicant must be available for work throughout the duration of his or her benefit period
- The applicant must be actively looking for work throughout the benefit period. The applicant must register with the Maine Joblink website if he or she is a resident of Maine, and must actively reach out to prospective employers for job opportunities
- The applicant will need to submit a work search report each week while filing for benefits. Make sure to provide verifiable contact details of the employers he or she met in the week as a part of his or her job search activity
- The applicant must be able to work at all times during his or her benefit period. If the applicant was unable to work due to sickness or any other reason he or she must report it to MDOL without fail
- The applicant must provide correct information regarding the wages and about the reason for separating from the previous job
- The applicant must not refuse to take up any appropriate job offers
- The applicant must provide correct information about his or her earnings in your benefits week
If any of the above rules are not followed, the MDOL will suspend the eligibility, and the Maine UI benefits will be stopped.
How To Apply For UI Benefits In Maine
To apply for benefits in the state of Maine, the applicant must possess the following documents:
The applicant has the following options to apply for benefits in Maine – apply online or by placing a phone call.
Applying for benefits through the online portal is the recommended mode to submit thr applications. To file a claim, the applicant must visit https://reemployme.maine.gov/ and click on “Create ReEmployME Account” and create a ReEmployME login ID and password.
Once login credentials are created, the applicant must click on “File a Claim” on the same webpage, and follow the instructions to complete the procedure.
If the applicant is not equipped with the required facility to apply for benefits online, he or she may also submit the applications by placing a telephone call. Dial 1-800-593-7660 to connect with a customer representative to help in submitting your application.
The applicant must still visit ReEmployME page to submit his or her weekly work search report to complete your submission.
How To File Weekly Claims
A benefit week starts from 12:01 AM Sunday and lasts till Saturday midnight. The applicant can file the weekly certification for complete benefit week from 12:01 AM Sunday. To file a weekly claim, the applicant must make sure that he or she has an active claim, without which the system will not accept the newly submitted claim.
Note– If the applicant skips filing for benefits for a week, he or she will not be allowed to continue without reopening an unemployment claim.
UI Benefit Amount
One can use the UI Benefits Calculator to know the approximate UI Benefits amount that he or she may receive as a WBA in the state of Maine.
Use the calculator to find out how much weekly benefits you may approximately earn in the state of Pennsylvania.
Things to Know After Filing An Application
Being eligible and filing for your UI benefits is only a half-won battle. Claimants must adhere to all the rules and regulations set by the authorities to continue receiving benefits throughout the stipulated benefit period.
If a claimant ends up committing fraud, his or her weekly benefits will be stopped instantly. He or she might be temporarily or permanently banished from receiving benefits, depending as per the case.
Claimants can also collect information on training programs provided by MDOL. It provides an array of opportunities to job-seekers to not only find new job opportunities but also to improve their skill-sets through various training programs.
Overpayments And Fraud
Overpayments occur when a claimant receives benefits that he or she is not entitled to by virtue of an error or fraudulent practices. MDOL distinguishes the types of overpayments in a similar fashion as – overpayment due to error or appeal reversal and overpayment due to fraud.
Overpayment Due To Error or Appeal Reversal
As the title suggests, this may occur when a claimant receives overpayment due to an error committed by him while filing for benefits or by appeal reversal.
Claimants may at times provide incorrect data while filing for benefits by mistake, and this may result in MDOL providing excessive benefits over the actual entitled amount. Such excessive amounts paid to the claimants will be collected back in the form of ‘repayments.’
The MDOL provides an option of converting the repayment into monthly or weekly installment plans to help ease the financial burden on the claimants.
To make your repayments, write a check or money order to the following address:
Bureau of Unemployment Compensation
47 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0047
For non-fraud overpayments, deductions from benefits payable are limited to 10 percent of the first $100 and 50 percent of any amount above $100 of any weekly benefit payment due to the claimant.
Note that if the claimant’s overpayment is uncleared for over one year, an interest of 1 percent will be levied on the balance amount.
In the event of non-payment of dues, the state will reserve the right to offset the balance from the claimant’s future lottery winnings and refunds of federal and state tax.
Overpayment Due To Fraud
Overpayment due to fraud arises when a claimant receives benefits that he or she is not entitled to by virtue of fraudulent means. Unemployment fraud is considered as ‘theft by deception’ under Title 17-A, which will be considered a felony, depending on the amount of UI benefit received through misrepresentation or false statement. This may lead to getting prosecuted in the court of law.
If found guilty of fraud, the claimant may face the following penalty/punishment:
- When found guilty for the first two times, the claimant will be disqualified from receiving benefits for 6 to 12 months
- From the third and subsequent violations, the claimant’s disqualification period will be decided by the Commissioner of Labor. In addition to getting disqualified, the claimant will be fined 50 percent of the fraudulently claimed benefits for the first occurrence, 75 percent for the second and 100 percent for the third
- Overpayments occurring due to fraud will be charged an additional interest of 1 percent per month until the penalties and the principal amounts are paid in full
The state of Maine offers extended benefits only when the unemployment rate is high. The applicants are advised to contact the local unemployment office to learn more about benefits extension.
Job Training Assistance
The MDOL provides various opportunities for job-seekers to not only find suitable employment but also to improve their competence to land a suitable job. The state offers various training programs for the benefit of job-seekers, such as:
- Dislocated Worker Benefits (DWB): as:
Dislocated Worker Benefits (DWB): The program provides extra benefits to those individuals who will be out of work for an extended period of time. To qualify for the DWB program, the applicants must satisfy the following conditions:
- The applicants must have enrolled in an approved training program
- The applicants must have exhausted their weekly benefits and must not be eligible for extra benefits under any other program
- The applicants will receive benefits for a total of 26 weeks or until the training period ends, whichever is first
- Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA): The TAA program is designed to help individuals who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade. The program helps these individuals in finding appropriate training programs and prepare them for reemployment
- Competitive Skills Scholarship: This scholarship is given out to workers in the form grants, for those who are looking to earn a degree or certificate in education or training programs.