Almost 20 thousand Mainers seeking unemployment benefits will soon receive expedited approvals- and denials- in the mail. Additionally, Maine Department of Labor Commissioner, Laura Fortman, says that next week the state will unveil its plan for self-employed and contract workers seeking unemployment because of COVID-19.
Some states have already started providing the special benefits signed into law in March but Fortman says Maine is trying to get a system in place and get it right.
"Our goal here is to make sure that when we roll this benefit out, that it is taking into consideration all of the people who are eligible for it, and that we are accurately providing benefits up front, so that we do not have to rework the system as we move along."
During the state's COVID-19 briefing Friday, Fortman said it's not clear how long these workers will need to wait before they receive their first relief checks, but she says she is hoping to reduce the standard wait time, which is 10 to 14 days.
She also warns that self-employed workers who sought assistance before the state roll-out will likely receive letters of denial, but should apply for the new program when it opens next week.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is one of three labor benefit packages designed to ease unemployment. It provides benefits to some workers who are not traditionally eligible for state unemployment.
A record number of new claims for unemployment have been made since mid-March, which Fortman says has swamped the unemployment office.
In response, the Department is waiving the fact-finding portion for some 20,000 claims. Fortman says about 5,000 such claims have been fast-tracked for approval, with 7,000 denials. The remainder, she says, will be given expedited interviews to determine eligibility.