Frequently Asked Questions About Unemployment

The Frequently Asked Questions section addresses topics and specific questions that are often asked of the Department of Labor. Answers to questions not addressed here may be obtained from other materials on this website or by calling the Department at 1-800-593-7660. Depending on the nature of your inquiry, you may need to seek legal guidance from private counsel on questions of your obligations under the law.

What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment insurance provides a temporary source of income to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Unemployment insurance is funded solely by unemployment taxes paid by employers; employees do not pay into the unemployment system.

When Should I Apply for Benefits?

You can apply as soon as you become unemployed. Any weeks prior to the date in which your application is filed cannot be considered, and are not eligible for benefits, so you should not wait to file your claim. Watch short videos that discuss when to file, how to apply and what you have to do to receive benefits.

How Do I Apply for Benefits?

You can apply for unemployment online, by telephone, or by mail. Your best option for filing an unemployment claim is to file online. Calling the department to speak with a customer service representative may be difficult during periods of high call volumes, especially Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter; you may experience a long wait time on the phone or get a message to call back later in the day. Wait times are typically shorter on Wednesdays and Thursdays and in the afternoon.

If you are temporarily laid off, your employer may provide you with a partial claim form if they expect to rehire you within a short period.

When you apply, you will need the following information:

  • Your Social Security Number (and Alien Registration Number if applicable);
  • The business name, address and telephone number of each place you worked during the past 18 months; and
  • The jobs you held and the dates you worked (for each employer).

Veterans who separated from the armed forces in the past 18 months will need to provide information from a DD-214. Federal civilian employees will need to provide information from a SF-8 or SF-50.

Will My Employer be Notified?

Yes. We will contact your employer to obtain information needed to process your application.

How Much Will I Receive?

The dollar amount you are qualified to receive each week is called your weekly benefit amount (WBA). It is based on your earnings during a set period prior to losing your job. The figure is calculated by dividing the average of your wages in the two highest quarters of your base period by 22. The maximum WBA is adjusted annually. Currently it is $386.00 (plus $10 per dependent per week, and can total no more than one half of the WBA).

How Long May I Receive Benefits?

The maximum amount of benefits you can receive, as well as the length of time that you may receive benefits, depends on your individual earnings, but is limited to a maximum of 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits. Not all individuals qualify for all 26 weeks. Not all weeks need to be used consecutively, but must be used within the benefit year. (Additional benefits may also be available under Special Programs.)

What is a Benefit Year?

A benefit year is a period of 52 consecutive weeks; it begins with the week in which you file your initial application for benefits. Because a benefit year must be created for each claimant, the term is commonly used as shorthand for a person's unemployment "account." So, the term is used both to define the period during which you may be eligible to receive benefits and to describe the record you have established with the unemployment bureau to receive benefits.

What is the Base Period?

The base period is the first four (4) of the last five (5) completed calendar quarters immediately preceeding the first day of your benefit year. We will use the last four completed quarters if you are not eligible using the regular base period quarters.

What is Covered Employment?

Covered employment is work performed for employers who are required by law to pay unemployment taxes to the state or are required to reimburse the state for any unemployment benefits paid to former employees. Covered employment from other states may be used under certain conditions.

What Kind of Employment is Not Covered?

Almost all employers in the state are covered by the Maine unemployment compensation law; however, certain types of employment are not (for example, some non-profit entities or some agricultural employers). If a question arises during your initial claim as to whether your former employer was covered by unemployment law, the Unemployment Insurance (UI) office will research the issue for you and make a determination as to whether you are eligible to receive benefits.

If I Am Monetarily Eligible (I Have Earned the Required Wages in My Base Period), Will I Receive Benefits?

Not necessarily. When you apply for unemployment, we determine whether you are monetarily eligible; which means that you have sufficient qualifying wages spread over a minimum of two (2) calendar quarters. Then we must determine whether you meet all other eligibility requirements.

What Can Keep Me from Qualifying for Unemployment?

You may have enough covered wages in your base period and still be denied for other reasons. Some of the reasons for disqualification are listed below.

You May Be Disqualified If You:

  • were discharged or fired for misconduct [Laws, Rules]
  • voluntarily quit without good cause attributable to the employment [Laws , Rules]
  • are not able and available for full-time work [Laws, Rules]
  • are not a U. S. citizen and not authorized to work in this country [Laws, Rules]
  • have limited the wages, hours, days, or areas of a job you would accept [Laws, Rules]
  • do not report for or satisfactorily participate in reemployment services as directed [Laws, Rules]
  • are self-employed [Laws, Rules]
  • are involved in a strike [Laws, Rules]
  • are not looking for work [Laws, Rules]
  • refuse suitable work [Laws, Rules]

What Are My Obligations after I Am Approved for Benefits?

  • File a claim for every week you are fully or partially unemployed: To receive benefits for a specific week, you must file a weekly claim. You can file unemployment any day of the week online or by phone. Be aware, however, that each claim must be filed within 14 days of the week-ending date (Saturday) of the week you are claiming, or it may not be eligible for payment. When you initially sign up for unemployment benefits, you will receive a booklet (the "Blue Book") explaining your rights and responsibilities while collecting unemployment. You may also watch the videos that explain your rights and responsibilities and common mistakes.
  • Look for work: To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits you must be both actively seeking employment and actively registered with the Maine Job Bank (unless you have been issued a waiver by the Department of Labor that specifically exempts you from having to look for work). Watch this short video that explains looking for work. If for some reason you are not registered with the Maine Job Bank, you must do so immediately online, or by visiting or contacting your local CareerCenter. You may be selected for a random audit of your work search efforts. You should retain your work search logs and be prepared to submit them to the unemployment office if asked. Failure to supply requested work search logs could result in a disqualification from benefits.
  • You must be available for work, and able to work, each week you file a claim: You must be both physically capable of work and available to accept a job if one is offered to you. Examples of situations where a person may not be available for work include: vacation, schooling, illness, incarceration or lack of transportation. Call the unemployment office at 1-800-593-7660 if you have questions about any of the requirements listed above.

How Long Will It Take to Get My First Unemployment Check?

It will take approximately two to three weeks from the date you first file a new claim to receive your first unemployment payment, assuming there are no potentially disqualifying issues to be addressed (like those listed above). Watch this video that explains what happens after you first file your claim. In cases where a fact finding interview is scheduled to adjudicate issues of eligibility, claimants allowed benefits will receive those monies shortly after they get their decision in the mail. The first eligible week claimed is a Waiting Period week, and no payment is made for that week. (Remember, you must file a claim to receive credit for the waiting week.)

Are All Earnings Reportable Each Week?

Yes. You must report all earnings from all jobs for the week the work was performed even if you were not paid that week. Your first $25.00 will not affect your unemployment check. Earning greater than $25.00 will be deducted from your benefits. If you earn more than $5.00 above your weekly benefit amount, you will not be eligible for benefits for that week. This short video explains how to file when you have also earned some wages for that week.

When Do I Report My Earnings?

You should report your earnings for the week in which the work is done or services are performed, not necessarily when you receive your paycheck or direct deposit from an employer. Generally, you will not have been paid at the time you file a weekly claim and you won't have a paystub to reference; that's OK. Provide an estimate of your earnings when you file the weekly claim, and then submit a paystub (or other documentation) when you receive those documents. Do not wait until you are paid to file your weekly claim. A delay could cause you to miss the opportunity to file a claim.

Is Any Other Income Deducted?

Under certain conditions, termination or separation pay, holiday pay, vacation pay, bonus pay and pensions are deducted. [Laws, Rules]

It Doesn't Look Like I'll Be Able to Collect Unemployment After Reading this Information. What Should I Do?

You should file a claim. This information is provided to you as a guide only. Your eligibility cannot be accurately determined without actually filing a claim for benefits. You will be provided with a written decision that can be appealed if you disagree with the facts. Your claim cannot be backdated for any reason and valuable weeks of benefits could be lost if you delaying filing a claim. You cannot be denied the right to file a claim and receive a determination of eligibility.

Is Job Training Available?

Yes. The Maine Department of Labor is a workforce development agency and offers a variety of federal and state programs to people who are eligible. Contact your local CareerCenter for more information and find out if you qualify for opportunities in your area.