Maine Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Maine is provided to workers as temporary 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 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 your claim for benefits.
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 your 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 you filed for your initial claims, which lasts for the 52 weeks from the time of application. However, you are eligible for benefits for at most 26 weeks within the benefits year.
Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA): The WBA is the amount that the claimants 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 you received in your two highest quarters is $2,200, your WBA will be (2,200/22) $220.
The maximum WBA a claimant can receive in Maine is $445 if he/she has no dependents, whereas claimants with dependents can claim upto a maximum limit of $667.
Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA): The MBA is the maximum amount of benefits a claimant 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:
- Firstly, you 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
- Secondly, you must have received wages totaling six times Maine’s annual average weekly wage. As of 2019, total earnings in the base period must be at least $5,140.74
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 you receive the letter, make sure to verify that all the information the letter contains (which includes your wage details during your 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 you have voluntarily quit your last job, an adjudicator will be appointed to decide if you will be 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/she will be eligible for benefits.
Some of the reasons that are considered as ‘good cause’ are- illness (you must be cured by the time you are 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 you were fired from your previous job for reasons such as misconduct, unethical behavior, or practicing illegal activities you will not be eligible for UI benefits. In such a case, to gain eligibility in the future, you will need to have wages that are eight-times the WBA.
If you were suspended from work, you will not be eligible for benefits. The disqualification will remain until the end of the period of suspension.
If you retired voluntarily or retired under a recognized company program, you will not be eligible for UI benefits. You will remain disqualified unless you have earned six-times your WBA.
If you have participated, financed or hold any form of stakes in a strike or lockout resulting in stoppage of work, you will be disqualified from receiving UI benefits.
To know more about your eligibility status with respect to job separation, try out the eligibility calculator to know whether or not you are eligible 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 you must follow if you are an applicant are:
- You must be available for work throughout the duration of your benefit period
- You must be actively looking for work throughout the benefit period. You must register with the Maine Joblink website if you are a resident of Maine, and must actively reach out to prospective employers for job opportunities
- You will need to submit a work search report each week while filing for benefits. Make sure to provide verifiable contact details of the employers you met in the week as a part of your job search activity
- You must be able to work at all times during your benefit period. If you were unable to work due to sickness or any other reason you must report it to MDOL without fail
- You must provide correct information regarding your wages and about the reason for separating from your previous job
- You must not refuse to take up any appropriate job offers
- You must provide correct information about your earnings in your benefits week
If any of the above rules are not followed, the MDOL will suspend your eligibility, and your UI benefits will be stopped.
How to Apply For UI Benefits in Maine
To apply for benefits in the state of Maine, you must possess the following documents:
You have 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 your applications. To file your claim, visit https://reemployme.maine.gov/ and click on “Create ReEmployME Account” and create your ReEmployME login ID and password.
Once you create your login credentials, click on “File a Claim” on the same webpage, and follow the instructions to complete the procedure.
If you are not equipped with the required facility to apply for benefits online, you may also submit your applications by placing a telephone call. Dial 1-800-593-7660 to connect with a customer representative to help in submitting your application.
You must still visit ReEmployME page to submit your 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. You can file the weekly certification for complete benefit week from 12:01 AM Sunday. To file your weekly claim you must make sure that you have an active claim, without which the system will not accept your newly submitted claim.
You must also remember that if you skip filing for benefits for a week, you will not be allowed to continue without reopening your claim. So, make sure that you do not skip filing for benefits at any point in time during your benefit period.
UI Benefit Amount
Use the UI Benefits Calculator to know the approximate UI Benefits amount that you may receive as your 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. Applicants must adhere to all the rules and regulations set by the authorities to continue receiving benefits throughout the stipulated benefit period.
If an applicant ends up committing fraud, his/her weekly benefits will be stopped instantly. He/she might be temporarily or permanently be banished from receiving benefits, depending as per the case.
Applicants 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 you receive benefits that you are 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 you.
Note that if your 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 your 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/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, you may face the following penalty/punishment:
- When found guilty for the first two times, you will be disqualified from receiving benefits for 6 to 12 months
- From the third and subsequent violations, the applicant’s disqualification period will be decided by the Commissioner of Labor. In addition to getting disqualified, you 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
- If the applicant is prosecuted by the court, he/she might have to pay a fine of not more than $2,000, and/or will have to face a jail period of not more than 364 days
The state of Maine or the federal government are not running any benefits extension programs as of 2019. The applicants are advised to contact the local unemployment office to learn more about the currently running reemployment programs provided by the states.
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.