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Maine Department of Labor Now Taking Unemployment Applications for Former Employees of Small Nonprofit Organizations

by Sarah Skillin Woodard

As of May 1st, the Maine DOL is taking applications for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that was created through the federal CARES Act. Much has been said about how this provides unemployment benefits for the self-employed, and this is indeed good news for the many independent contractors we know who team up with nonprofits.

Less understood, however, and equally good news is that unemployment is now also available to former employees of small nonprofits (4 or fewer) that had been exempted from paying into the state system!

How to Apply

The Maine DOL has created step-by-step YouTube videos on how to file for unemployment using the “ReEmployME” system:

Things to be aware of:

  • The MDOL periodically experiences technical issues due to high volume. They advise patience.
  • Please do not send any documentation right now; they will be asking for it later (likely end of May).
  • If you have already applied for unemployment, they recommend you do not apply again. Commissioner Fortman has made assurances that you are already in the system and will be processed.
  • Make sure that if you sign up with the Maine DOL that you verify your email address. We are told that if you don’t, you are unable to reset your password. This becomes important if you log-in incorrectly three times and you are locked out of your account. If locked out, you’ll need to call the Maine DOL.

Eligibility Checklist – click to enlarge

Benefits + Eligibility Details

  • PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, cut off is December 31st, 2020.
  • It is retroactive to March 15th as that is the date the governor declared a state of emergency.
  • From March 15th-April 4th, the amount of benefit is $172 a week. This is 50% of the average weekly amount of unemployment provided to those who were already eligible. The MDOL considers this the “Phase 1” amount. There may be an increase in a future “Phase 2.”
  • From April 4th on, in addition to the $172/week, you are also entitled to the $600 weekly “enhanced unemployment” benefit that anyone receiving at least $1 of unemployment compensation was guaranteed in the CARES Act.
  • If you were impacted by COVID-19 prior to March 15, you may be eligible for more unemployment benefits, but you will need to call the Maine DOL and work with them outside of their normal claims process.
  • Please reference the eligibility checklist above.

It is important to note: applying does not trigger the benefit check, completing something called “certification” does. This process is intended to track whether or not someone is still unemployed.

  • If you fail to complete weekly certification, they will not issue a check and you will need to call the MDOL to fix the problem. Given the high volume of calls they receive, it is best to keep up on this task.
  • If you have already applied for unemployment, you MUST continue filing your weekly certifications. They urge that if possible, avoid filing weekly claims on Sunday or Monday. Please pick Tuesday or later in the week when there is less online traffic.

Questions?
For questions about PUA, please call 1-888-413-0820.

If you need to call the unemployment phone lines, please use the alphabetical call-in schedule to help reduce phone line congestion: 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.

Important Department of Labor Links:

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