Did you recently lose your job in Maine? If so, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits: payments intended to partially replace the wages of employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. Although the basic rules for unemployment are similar across the board, the eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state. Below you’ll find information on collecting unemployment in Maine.
In Maine, the Department of Labor (DOL) handles unemployment benefits and determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must meet the following three eligibility requirements in order to collect unemployment benefits in Maine:
Virtually all states look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period.) In Maine, as in most states, the base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim. For example, if you file your claim in August of 2015, the base period would be from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015.
To qualify for benefits in Maine, you must have earned:
In Maine, as in other states, you must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Layoffs. If you were laid off, lost your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or got "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.
Firing. If you were fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or simply weren't a good fit, you won’t necessarily be barred from receiving benefits. However, if you were fired for misconduct relating to your job, you will be ineligible for benefits. Misconduct includes doing something against your employer’s interests, or something you knew you should not have done, such as refusing to perform your job duties, showing up to work intoxicated, or sleeping on the job.
Quitting. If you quit your job, you will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless you had good cause relating to your work. In general, good cause means that your reason for leaving the position was job-related and was so compelling that you had no other choice than to leave. For example, if you left your job because of dangerous working conditions or sexual harassment that your employer refused to stop, you may be able to collect benefits. You may also be eligible for benefits if you quit for certain compelling personal reasons, including to relocate with a spouse (depending on the circumstances), to escape domestic violence, or due to your own illness (as long as you meet certain requirements relating to communicating with your employer and applying for reinstatement when you are well enough to work).
To keep collecting unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to work, and looking for employment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?) If you’re incarcerated, on vacation, or in school, or you don’t have adequate transportation to get to work, you likely won’t be considered able and available to work.
In Maine, you must actively search for work each week, keeping a log of your job contacts and other job search activities. Your log may be audited at any time. You must also register with the Maine Job Bank.
If you’re offered a suitable position, you must accept it. Whether a job is suitable depends on a variety of factors, including your prior experience and earnings, the degree of risk to your health and safety, the distance of the worksite from your residence, and how long you’ve been unemployed. After ten weeks, you will be expected to accept a position that pays less, has a longer commute, or is a different type of work than your previous job.
If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit rate is your average quarterly earnings during the two highest paid quarters of the base period, divided by 22. The current maximum is $386 per week. You can receive an additional $10 per week per dependent, up to one-half of your weekly benefit amount.
You may receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. (In times of very high unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available.)
You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online, by phone, or by mail. You can find online filing information, telephone contact information, and forms and addresses of local offices where you can file by mail, at the website of the Maine Department of Labor.
After you file, you will receive some paperwork from the DOL, including a monetary determination stating the wages reported by all of your employers during your base period and your weekly benefit amount.
If your unemployment claim is denied, you have 15 days to file an appeal with the Maine Department of Labor’s Division of Administrative Hearings. A hearing will be conducted, by phone or in person, before a Hearing Officer. You will be able to present evidence and witness testimony at the hearing. The Hearing Officer will then issue a decision on your appeal and send it to you by mail.
If you disagree with the referee’s decision, you may appeal it to the Unemployment Insurance Commission within 15 days. The Commission may or may not hold another hearing before reaching a decision.
For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the Department of Labor website.