Labor officials provide unemployment benefits, fraud updates

Sat, 02/20/2021 - 11:45am

AUGUSTA — For the week ending February 13, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 2,000 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 450 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), according to a news release. 

In total, approximately 2,700 people were filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.

About 17,000 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 13,300 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 19,200 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

Between March 15, 2020 and February 13, 2021, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.89 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, per the release. 

The Department has handled approximately 237,200 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 108,800 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 3.3 million weekly certifications filed.

Fraud Update

The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.

During the week ending February 13, the Department cancelled 2,500 initial claims and four weekly certifications suspected to be fraudulent.

Unemployment imposter fraud is when a person's Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is stolen and used illegally to apply for unemployment benefits.

Maine is one of many U.S. states working in close collaboration with state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate and prevent it.

The Maine Department of Labor is also warning unemployment claimants and adding extra security measures to protect beneficiaries from fraudulent email "phishing" scams” in which bad actors steal usernames and passwords, use them to log into unemployment accounts, and change the payment information.