Introduction

The Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Unemployment Compensation administers unemployment insurance benefits in the state.  Employers pay the full cost of unemployment insurance benefits through payroll taxes.  No deductions are ever may from employees’ wages to fund unemployment benefits.

Benefits are available to workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own, such as through a layoff, plant closure or other similar circumstances.  Employees who meet all eligibility requirements can receive benefits for up to 26 weeks during a Benefit Year.

MDOL also staffs CareerCenters throughout the state, providing services such as job training, job search, resume preparation and interviewing skills, market research and other information at no cost to job seekers.  You do not need to be receiving unemployment benefits to make use of the CareerCenter resources.

How unemployment works in Maine

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Maine.

  1. Before you apply, make sure you meet all benefit requirements.  You must meet all requirements to be eligible to collect unemployment insurance in Maine.  Among others, make sure you were let go from your previous employer for a qualifying reason, that you are ready and able to go back to work, and that you have met minimum wage requirements during your Base Period or Alternate Base Period.  
  2. If you meet all benefit requirements, then you can apply for unemployment insurance benefits.  You can file an initial claim for unemployment benefits online or by telephone by calling 1-800-593-7660, or by mail if your employer has given you a Maine Form B-9 (Green Slip).
  3. Determine the amount of your benefit.   After you apply, you will receive a Wage Determination Letter document showing your weekly Maine unemployment insurance amount. Verify that all information is correct and contact MDOL if it is not.
  4. Determine the number of weeks you can draw benefits.  Anyone filing a Maine unemployment claim who continues to meet all eligibility requirements can generally collect up to 26 weeks of benefits each Benefit Year.  
  5. Know how and when you will be paid.  Your first week of unemployment is an unpaid waiting week.  Upon approval of your application, you will receive a debit card and your benefits will be loaded onto that card, or you can choose direct deposit into your bank account.  It will take about three weeks to receive your first payment.
  6. Conduct an ongoing job search.  You are required to look for full-time work while drawing benefits.  You are expected to find and apply to appropriate job openings on a weekly basis as well as registering for the Maine JobLink site/program.  You will be asked to report these activities in your weekly claims report.
  7. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits.  If you are denied benefits, then you can request an appeal hearing to challenge your eligibility or the amount you may receive.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits in Maine, you must meet all requirements:

  • You must be either totally or partially unemployed through no fault of your own.  You generally will not be considered totally or partially unemployed if you are primarily self-employed or employed full-time on a commission basis.
  • You must actively be seeking work.  To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be registered and active with Maine JobLink if you are living in Maine.  If you are filing for unemployment benefits and living outside Maine, you must be registered for work with the Job Service Agency in the state in which you are residing.
  • You are required to seek work each week. Making personal employer contacts to complete an application is generally the most effective means of securing work, but other acceptable forms of job seeking activities include sending letters and resumes by mail or online, and using employment agencies.
  • You will be required to report verifiable work search activities each week while filing your Weekly Certification.  Keep a copy of emails and URL/website addresses for applications you submit online.  Also keep a copy of any application submitted or, if applying online, take a screen shot or write the URL/website address so that you can report them each week when filing your weekly certification.
  • You are able and available for work.  You must be physically able to work and available to accept suitable, full-time work without restrictions such as child care, transportation or shift preference when you work in a multi-shift industry.  There are some exceptions to this requirement:
    • The greater part of the shift is between midnight and 5 a.m. and you:
      • Need to care for an immediate family member.
      • Have a disability and a personal care attendant who is required to help you but is not available.
      • You worked less than full-time for a majority (more than 50 percent) of weeks during your Base Period and you are able, available and seeking work for a comparable number of hours in your regular occupation; or
      • You worked full time for a majority of the weeks during your Base Period but you are only able, available, and seeking part time work due to your own or an immediate family member’s illness or disability or when necessary for the safety or protection of yourself or an immediate family member, including protection from domestic abuse.
      • “Immediate Family” means the claimant's spouse, children, parents, step-parents, brothers or sisters, or relatives who have been acting in the capacity of a parent of either the claimant or spouse.
      • If you meet one of these exceptions, you must report it to the MDOL when you file a claim.
  • If you are not available to work for part of a week, you must report any such days and the reasons when filing your weekly certification for benefits.  When you are not able or available due to illness or other “good cause,” you may be eligible for reduced benefits for the part of the week that you were able and available for work.
  • You must report any offer of work that you refuse or any referral to work from an MDOL CareerCenter that you do not accept on your Weekly Certification. If you refuse an offer of suitable work or a referral to a suitable job, you may be disqualified from receiving further benefits.
  • You must report any work performed and the amount of wages earned or in the space provided if you file online, even if you were not yet paid for performing the work.  This includes all employment of any kind, such as self-employment, odd jobs, babysitting, etc. Wages include cash, commissions, checks, tips, and the cash value of pay you receive in the form of food, lodging or any other means of payment.  The first $25 of gross earnings will not affect the amount of your unemployment payment for that week. Gross earnings above $25 are subtracted from your benefit payment for that week. For example: If you earn $40 in a week, only $15 ($40 minus the $25 "allowance") will be deducted from your unemployment payment. You must continue to seek work even if you are claiming partial benefits.
  • If you receive any payment from your employer that is not regular earnings, such as severance pay, vacation pay, holiday pay or other nonwages, you must report it on your weekly certification
  • If you are called for jury duty while you are filing for unemployment benefits, you must report the jury duty pay (but not the mileage or other expense payments).
  • You must file a weekly certification for your one week waiting period.  Maine law requires a one‑week waiting period prior to paying benefits. You must file a Weekly Certification for this week, but you will not receive a benefit payment for the week.
  • The first week in your new Benefit Year will normally serve as your Waiting Period.
  • You must register for work by creating an account with Maine JobLink. Registration for work will enable the MDOL CareerCenter to assist you in returning to work. If you fail to register with Maine JobLink, you could be denied benefits until you have registered.
  • If you move or live out-of-state, you must also register with a local Job Service Agency or America’s Job Bank at www.ajb.org.
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must have been legally allowed to work in the United States when you earned your Base Period Wages and you must be legally allowed to work while you are claiming unemployment benefits.  Your Social Security Number and/or Alien Permit number will be confirmed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Reasons why you might be denied benefits

You quit your last job.  The exception here is if you had “good cause” for leaving your last employer.  Good cause might include leaving due to an illness or injury, leaving to accept a new job, or to accompany, follow or join a spouse, or leaving due to domestic abuse.

You got fired.  If you are discharged due to misconduct, you may be denied benefits.  This also includes being discharged because you were convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor in connection with your work. 

Retirement.  If you voluntarily retire or retire under a company program under which you receive pension benefits, you could be disqualified from receiving benefits.

Labor dispute.  A special law applies if you are on strike and out of work because of a stoppage of work due to a labor dispute. If there is a stoppage of work due to a labor dispute, and you are participating in the strike” or financing or directly interested in the labor dispute that caused the stoppage of work, then you will not be eligible for benefits during the labor dispute.  

Referral refusal. If you refuse any work or fail to apply for any job referrals that you accept from Maine JobLink. You must report details of the refusal if prompted.  In determining whether or not a job was "suitable," a claims adjudicator will compare the offered work to your previous work.

During your first 10 consecutive weeks of unemployment:  The claims adjudicator will consider the following factors to determine whether a job was suitable:

  • The degree of risk to your health, safety and morals
  • Your physical fitness
  • Prior training
  • Previous work experience
  • Prior earnings
  • How long you have been unemployed
  • Your prospects for getting work in your local area in your usual occupation
  • The distance to the work from your home

After 10 consecutive weeks of unemployment: Your prior training and work experience are NOT taken into consideration. Also, your prior earnings will NOT be taken into consideration if the offered job pays wages equal to or more than the Average Weekly Wage in Maine as determined by MDOL.

How to file a claim

Before you file a claim

Prior to filing a claim, you should gather information you will need to complete your application:

  • Social Security number
  • Home address
  • Mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • A valid email address
  • The reason why you lost your last job
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need an Alien registration number
  • If you were on active duty in the U.S. military in the past 18 months, you will need DD Form 214, Member 4
  • If you worked for the federal government in the past 18 months, you will need Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50.
  • You will need all of your employment information for the past 18 months, including all contact information and dates worked 
  • Any additional wages you have received from vacation, severance or other sources
  • Other states where you have worked in the past 18 months.
  • If you choose to have your payments made by direct deposit, you will also need to supply appropriate information for that option (bank name and address, account and routing number).

Filing an initial claim

You can file an initial claim for unemployment benefits online or by telephone by calling 1-800-593-7660, or by mail if your employer has given you a Maine Form B-9 (Green Slip).

Once you have completed your Initial Claim, you must file a weekly claim for benefits, called a Weekly Certification, for any week that you want considered for payment.

If you file by telephone, it is recommended that you call on Wednesday through Friday; Monday and Tuesday are often busy with longer wait times.  A customer service representative will ask you a series of questions to open your claim. If you do not have a telephone, you can use the telephones at any MDOL CareerCenter free of charge.

Filing weekly certifications

After filing an initial claim, you must still file a claim each week to continue to collect benefits for each week you are unemployed.  If you do not file Weekly Certification, you will not receive benefits for that week and your account may be closed. A weekly certification is considered timely if it is filed within 13 days of the week ending date for the week filed.

A Benefit Week runs from 12:01 am Sunday through midnight on Saturday

You can file your Weekly Certification for the completed Benefit Week as of 12:01 am Sunday morning

File your weekly claims on the Internet by going to www.maine.gov/reemployme and selecting the option to file a Weekly Certification. You may also file weekly unemployment claims using the automated phone filing system at 1‑800‑593-7660

If you file your Weekly Certification using the telephone, you still must submit your Work Search online.

If you move inside Maine or to another state, indicate address and telephone number changes when prompted while filing a Weekly Certification.  If you relocate to another state at any time while you are filing for unemployment benefits, you must register for work at a local Job Service Agency in your new state.

You can find your local Job Service Agency by going here.  

When you return to work

When you return to work full time, simply stop filing Weekly Certifications.

If you return to work part time but you are still seeking full-time work, you may still be eligible for some benefits.  Continue to file your Weekly Certifications each week if your gross earnings are not $5 or more above your Weekly Benefit Amount.

To reopen a claim 

You can reopen a claim at any time during your Benefit Year.   

Online at www.maine.gov/reemployme.  You will need to enter your User ID and Password and click Unemployment Claim.

Call 1-800-593-7660.

If you are unemployed and want to begin filing for benefits again, do not delay.  Claims cannot be backdated so reopening your claim in a timely way is essential.

How much will I be paid?

Unemployment insurance benefits are based on wages paid to you during your Base Period or Alternate Base Period.  

MDOL looks at earnings in the "Regular" Base Period, which is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the date that you file your claim.

If you do not have enough qualifying wages, the "Alternate" Base Period will be used.  It is the last four completed calendar quarters prior to the date you file your claim. This means that MDOL will substitute the most recently completed calendar quarter for the oldest quarter used in your "Regular" Base Period.

 You will receive a Monetary Determination letter that will show your weekly benefit amount (WBA) and maximum benefit amount (MBA) if you are "monetarily eligible" (have earned enough money) to set up a benefit claim year. 

If you review the letter and find errors, get proof of the right amount and contact the Claim Center at 1-800-593-7660 and speak with a claim representative.

Your Weekly Benefit Amount is the benefit amount that you can receive for one week is determined by dividing the average of the wages in the two highest quarters of your “base period” by 22.  

You may be eligible for up to 26 full benefit payments during your Benefit Year.

The maximum amount of benefits that you can receive during your Benefit Year is either 26 times your WBA OR one-third of your total Base Period Wages, whichever is less.

You may be entitled to a Dependency Allowance if you are the whole or main support of a child who is under 18, is a student between the ages of 18 and 23, or has a disability, you may be eligible for a dependency allowance of $10 for each child.

Federal or State taxes will not be withheld from your unemployment benefits unless you request that they be withheld.  Also, if you owe child support that you pay to the Department of Health and Human Services, up to 50% of your benefits may be automatically withheld and sent to DHHS. 

When and how will I be paid?

Claimants can be paid either through direct deposit or through the use of an Electronic Payment Card (EPC) in the form of a Visa Debit Card from US Bank.  Payment is made electronically by either method.   All claimants, regardless of the option they choose, are sent an EPC card.  Instructions for using the card are sent with the card or you can go here, for more information and click “Payment Options.”

If you are eligible for benefits, your first payment will be made about three weeks after you file your initial claim. However, heavy workloads (especially in the winter season), holiday periods and other factors may cause delays in processing benefit payments.

Your electronic fund transfers should be in your bank account or in your EPC account two to three business days from the date your payment was certified.

Looking for a job while collecting benefits

Every week you collect benefits, you must also conduct an active job search campaign.  You must document your activities which you will then use to substantiate your weekly claim.

In addition, you must also register with Maine CareerCenters.  The primary mission of the CareerCenters is to place people in jobs. They serve people who are seeking employment and employers who need qualified workers. 

Find a local CareerCenter by going here

CareerCenter services include job registration, interviewing, testing, counseling, job development, recruitment, and other services for employers. They also include referrals to jobs, referrals to training, and other services to help people prepare for employment.

Maine JobLink is the CareerCenters’ online job-matching service that allows job seekers to search for jobs online, post resumes, and get matched with employers looking for particular skills.  

MDOL accesses several federal and state programs. Each program has special guidelines, eligibility requirements, and services. For more information on these programs, job seekers should call or visit their nearest CareerCenter.

MDOL also runs the Worker Profiling Reemployment Services program.  It selects people who may benefit from additional help in their efforts to find a job.  If selected, a letter will be sent for you to attend a Worker Profiling Remeployment Services workshop.  If selected, you MUST participate in the workshop.  If you do not attend, your benefits may be denied for that week.  Attendance at the workshop also fulfills the work search requirement for that week. 

MDOL also participate in other unemployment programs as well.  These include the Dislocated Worker Benefits program, the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers Program, Federal or State Extended Benefits, and Disaster Unemployment Assistance.  Contact your local CareerCenter for more details on these programs.

What if I am denied benefits?

If you are denied unemployment insurance benefits in Maine, you have the right to appeal the decision.

If the reason you are disqualified from receiving benefits is due to a job separation issue or refusal of a suitable job, you will not be able to collect benefits until you have worked in a job for an employer who pays unemployment taxes and you have earned the required amount of money. The exact dollar amount will be specified in any disqualification decision.  You may be required to provide documentation showing that required wages have been earned.

Filing an appeal

If you file an appeal, it is critical that you continue to file weekly certifications while your appeal is being considered.  You can only be paid for weeks that you filed for benefits.  Even if an appeal is decided in your favor and you have not filed certifications, you will not be able to collect benefits.

If you are denied benefits for any reason, MDOL will send you a letter stating the reason why. 

If you believe your monetary determination is incorrect, call the Claim Center at 1-800-593-7660. MDOL will investigate the claim and if any errors are found, the amount of wages will be corrected.  If MDOL does not find any errors, you will be scheduled for an appeal hearing.

You will be advised to file an appeal. While the appeal is pending, MDOL will investigate its accuracy and completeness. If MDOL finds any errors, MDOL will correct the amount of the wages. If MDOL does not find any errors, you will be scheduled for an appeal hearing.

You must file an appeal of the Deputy’s Decision or monetary determination within 15 calendar days of the mailing date of notification you receive.  You may be granted an additional 15 day window if you can show good cause for the late filing.

There are five different ways to file an appeal:

  • Online at www.maine.gov/reemployme
  • By telephone at (207) 621-5001; TTY users call Maine Relay 711.  You can leave a message regarding your appeal, but it is not actually filed until you actually speak to a staff person who will take your appeal by phone.
  • By FAX at  (207) 287-5949
  • By mail.  Send your appeal to:
  • Division of Administrative Hearings
    30 State House Station
    Augusta, ME  04333-0030
  • Hand Delivery to the Maine Department of Labor located at 45 Commerce Drive in Augusta, ME or any Maine CareerCenter.

Find Career Center locations at: www.mainecareercenter.gov

After you file your appeal, all matters related to the appeal should be directed to the Division of Administrative Hearings (DAH). They will send you information regarding your appeal hearing, including the time and date of your hearing. You can also get information about appeals through the DAH website at http://www.maine.gov/labor/unemployment/appeals.shtml

Most hearings are held by telephone, but if your hearing will be in person, the notice will include the hearing location.

After your hearing, a Hearing Officer will render a decision.  If you do not agree with the decision, you can appeal that decision to the Unemployment Insurance Commission.  You have 15 days from the “date mailed” on your Division of Administrative Hearings decision to file a written appeal to the Unemployment Insurance Commission.  Be sure to present all of your objections and evidence since it is unlikely there will be another hearing.  The Commission will generally only consider what is in the written appeal.

Send your appeal to:

Unemployment Insurance Commission
57 State House Station, Augusta, ME  04333-0057
Fax Number: (207) 287-4554

If you disagree with the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Commission, you can request a reconsideration of that decision within 10 days of the mailing date of that decision.  If your reconsideration is denied, you can file an appeal with the State Superior Court within 30 days of receipt of the decision

Key terms

Base Period: The first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the date that you file your Initial Claim.

Benefit Year: It runs 52 weeks from the Sunday of the week that you file your Initial Claim.  You may be eligible for up to 26 full benefit payments during your Benefit Year.

Benefit Week: Runs Sunday through Saturday

Initial Claim: This is the first time you file a claim in a Benefit Year.  It is the first step in starting a claim for Weekly Benefits. An Initial Claim can be for:

Someone who has never filed a claim for unemployment benefits

Someone whose most recent Benefit Year has ended and is eligible for a second Benefit Year

Someone with significant gaps between Weekly Claims during a Benefit Year, such as seasonal employees.

MDOL:  Maine Department of Labor, the agency responsible for administering unemployment insurance benefits in the state.

Waiting-Period Week: Maine law requires a one week "waiting period" before any benefits are paid.  You MUST file a Weekly Certification for this week, but you will not receive a benefit payment. In most cases, the first week in your new benefit year serves as your Waiting-Period Week.  

Weekly Certification: After filing an Initial claim, you still must file a certification each week. If you choose to file your Weekly Certification through the automated phone filing system, you still need to log into maine.gov/reemployme to report your weekly Work Search.

Weekly Benefit Amount: The amount of unemployment compensation you will be paid each week.  It is determined based on wages earned during your Base Period or in your Alternate Wage Period.

For more information

Filing a Claim

Online Claim Filing:  www.maine.gov/reemployme

Customer Service Telephone: 1-800-593-7660

Benefit Services Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 am to 5 pm   

Customer Service Hours:  Monday – Friday, 8 am to 12:30 p.m.

TTY Users: Call Maine Relay 711

FAX: 1-207-287-5905

Mailing Address:                                          

Unemployment Claim Center

97 State House Station

Augusta, ME  04333-0097

Find Maine CareerCenter locations at: www.mainecareercenter.gov

Appeals Contact Information

Phone:  (207) 621-5001

TTY Users:  Call Maine Relay 711

FAX:  (207) 287-5949

Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 am to 5 pm

Mailing Address:                                          

Division of Administrative Hearings

30 State House Station

Augusta, ME  04333-0030