Maine Unemployment – Know Your Rights
The Maine Department of Labor’s Unemployment Bureau acted quickly to help workers affected by the abrupt closing of a supermarket this winter. The Rapid Response team held a session to provide the laid off workers information on health care options, job searches and applications for unemployment benefits. Rapid Response teams are generally deployed when there is a mass layoff. Other workers who lose their job through no fault of their own will have to find information by themselves. We will provide you with the information you need to collect unemployment and deal with any issues that may arise.
Note: The Maine Department of Labor reports a high call volume, which the department attributes to seasonal employees and their separation from work. It recommends using the online services, or try reaching them via telephone during below-peak call times.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in ME
Like most states, Maine provides support for workers who lost their job through no fault of their own when they worked for employers covered by state unemployment insurance premiums. To be eligible for benefits, workers must:
- Lost the job through no fault of their own
- Meet wage eligibility requirements
- Be able and available to work
Additionally, Maine requires those whose initial claim for benefits is approved to maintain eligibility while receiving benefits. If the Department of Labor approves benefits, you must file a weekly claim and show that you are regularly looking for work.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
Out of Work Through No Fault of Your Own
Your actions or decisions cannot be the engine of your job loss. If you decided to quit because you disliked your co-workers, your decision caused the separation.
If you were fired because you repeatedly violated a rule at work, you will not be eligible. Your actions caused the dismissal.
If you were laid off, your position terminated or the business shut down, you are likely to be eligible for benefits.
Able and Available for Work
You must be mentally and physically able to work the kind of work you usually do to be eligible for benefits. If a medical condition caused you to quit, the examiner will consider your circumstance on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind that you may be eligible for other compensation from the state. If you become ill or disabled after you apply for benefits, you may still be eligible as long as you have proof of your condition.
In Maine, examiners will look at the availability issue individually. Generally, you must be available to do the kind of work you were doing before, in the area where you used to work. If you were a full-time employee working double-shifts, you must be available to work full-time at any time. You cannot restrict your availability to the day shift and still be eligible.
Monetary Eligibility and the Base Period
The state uses a 12-month period to calculate 1) whether you will be eligible for benefits and 2) the amount of benefits you can receive. This period is called the “base period,” the first four of the last five quarters prior to the week you file your claim.
You have to have sufficient wages spread over two quarters within your base period to be eligible. An examiner will make the calculation and you will receive notice (Notice of Monetary Determination) of this amount whether or not you are eligible.
If you are not eligible using the standard base period, the department will use an alternative method. They will count the last four quarters prior to your filing the claim.
Weekly Benefit Amount
The weekly benefit amount (WBA) is the amount you are eligible to receive each week. The state will take the average of your wages in the two quarters with the highest wages and divide that number by 22. The maximum WBA is set by legislation and adjusted each year. In 2016-17 fiscal year, the max is $410.
Maine allows workers to receive a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits during the benefit year (the year that begins when you first file a claim). Not everyone will receive 26 weeks, but if you do, the maximum pay out in Maine is $10, 660 (not counting dependent pay).
The maximum amount you can receive per week is affected by the number of dependents you have. The state provides $10 per dependent per week.
How to Apply for Benefits in ME
You can file a claim online, by telephone or by mail. The Department of Labor recommends filing online, especially during the winter when seasonal employees are actively seeking benefits.
You will need to provide the following information when you file:
- Name, address and social security number
- The correct names, addresses and telephone numbers for any employers you’ve had over the past 18 months
- The starting and ending dates for those jobs
- Proof of your eligibility to work in the US (if not a citizen, alien registration number, etc.)
- Bank routing number and account information if you plan to use Direct Deposit
If you are a former federal or military employee, you will need the appropriate separation forms for each.
The telephone number for new or weekly claims:
TTY/Relay for Deaf and hard of hearing: Maine relay 711
The addresses and fax numbers for claim centers for filing via mail or fax:
|Augusta Claim Center
97 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0097
Fax: (207) 287-5905
|Bangor Claim Center
Bangor, ME 04402-0450
Fax: (207) 561-4665
|Presque Isle Claim Center
Presque Isle, ME 04769-1088
Fax: (207) 764-2142
|Special Programs Unit
47 State House Station
Augusta ME, 04333-0047
Tel: (207) 621-5101
Fax: (207) 287-3395
Weekly Certifications and Maintaining Eligibility
If your claim is successful, you will have to show that you continue to be eligible to receive benefits. The state requires claimants to file a weekly claim (weekly certification) to show they are eligible.
You will certify weekly online or by telephone. You will have to answer questions regarding your status that will determine your eligibility for that benefit week.
- Are you able and available to work?
- Have you accepted any work?
- Have you earned any income or wages? If so, how much?
- Have you turned down any reasonable job offers?
- Were you actively seeking work?
Depending on how you answer these questions, your claim will be processed or denied. You may also be asked to contact a claims representative to answer other questions.
Work Search Requirements
The Department of Labor requires benefit recipients to look for work each week. The first step in satisfying this requirement is to register with Maine JobLink. You should utilize the services there, as well as look for work on your own.
The state may request that you show proof of your efforts to find work. They choose subjects randomly. If you are chosen, you must report to a claims center and show your job search information, so keep a record. Your searches should result in contacts that you can prove actually happened (like filing an application or speaking with a potential employer).
The state may also select you for participation in other job search assistance programs.
Maine exempts some workers from this work search requirement.
- Claimants involved in a mass temporary lay-off;
- Claimants for partial benefits;
- Claimants involved in a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute;
- Claimants who have a continuing job attachment with reasonable assurance of resumption of employment.
Still, if the state requests that you participate in any additional job search programs, you must respond or face disqualification.
Part-time Work and Unemployment Benefits in ME
You may work while you receive unemployment benefits. You must report your wages during your benefit week. However, if you earn wages above $25 a week, the state will deduct that money from your benefits.
If you earn $5 more than your WBA, the state will consider you employed and you will not receive benefits for that week.
You must report your earnings during the week you earned them, not the week you were paid. Failure to report earnings will be considered fraud. The state could penalize you by taking away your benefits or taking you to court.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
The state will deny benefits if you do not meet the monetary eligibility requirements. You will receive a notice showing how they determined your wages during the base period and the amount you would receive if eligible.
However, even if you meet the eligibility requirements, the examiner may find issues regarding your separation from work. Quitting a job voluntarily or the employer firing you for misconduct will be sufficient for the state to disqualify you.
Other situations may cause a disqualification:
- Not qualified to work in the US
- Failure to participate in job search programs
- Fraud (lying about your separation, wages or other relevant issues)
- On strike
- Couldn’t get transportation to work so you quit
Yet, there are some situations where your actions or decisions caused the separation from work but you can still receive benefits.
Quit and Still Eligible
If you quit your job for “good cause,” you may be eligible for benefits even though the decision was yours.
- Your employer withheld pay without a good reason for a long time
- Your employer violated some law or safety rule
- Conditions at work were hazardous to your health
The situation is called a constructive discharge. Your employer did something or failed to so something that gave you little choice but to quit. You should be able to show that you made a repeated, serious effort to solve the situation before quitting.
Fired and Still Eligible
Rules are rules, as the saying goes. Your employer may dismiss you for violating a rule. Repeated violations of a rule that results in your discharge from work is likely to disqualify you from unemployment benefits. The unemployment bureau may not consider a one-time violation of a rule to rise to the level of misconduct.
If you make these arguments when you file a claim, your employer has the right to dispute the claim. You may have to resolve the issue on appeal.
If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Maine.
For further information on how to file unemployment benefits in Maine:
Watch videos and read the FAQ at the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation’s website
Get more information about filing an appeal
Read about the payment options (Direct Deposit or Debit Card)
Read the “Blue Book,” the worker’s guide to unemployment benefits in Maine