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Unemployment Eligibility and Qualifications
General Benefits Eligibility Criteria
Maine unemployment benefits eligibility is decided upon by two sets of criteria: work and wages. Work criteria are created to make sure you are not unemployed due to misconduct or didn't quit your job for personal reasons. It also makes sure you continue to look for work after becoming separated from employment.
You must also meet the wages criteria, which requires that you make a certain amount of money before you can receive benefits. The reason for this is to make sure there was enough taxes paid by your employer on your wages to cover your benefits.
Work Eligibility Criteria
Before assessing your wages, you must pass the following work criteria set in place by the Maine Department of Labor. You must be able to:
- Register for work
- Report your wages and job searches every week
- Prove that you are able to work
- Illustrate that you are available for full-time work
- Accept full-time work if it is offered to you
- Explain why you did not accept full-time work if you refuse
- Serve a waiting period of one week before receiving benefits
- Show you weren't fired due to misconduct
Wages Eligibility Criteria
All unemployment benefits paid after January 1, 1980 must pass the following wages criteria. An individual must have received wages in two quarters of the base period that exceed two times the annual average weekly wage. Then, total base period earnings must be more than six times the annual average weekly wage.
Your base period consists of wages earned during the first four of the last five calendar quarters prior to the date you file an initial claim for unemployment insurance.
EXAMPLE: The average weekly wage is decided at the beginning of the calendar year. In 2016, it was set at $789.35. By these criteria, you must have received $1,578.70 total in your two highest paying quarters and $4,736.10 in your base period.
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Unemployment Availability Limits
Your Benefit Year lasts for a 12-month period. It starts with the Sunday of the week you file your initial claim and ends one year later. CLAIMS CANNOT BE BACKDATED. If you earned enough money to qualify, your benefits are available during this 12-month period. You could be eligible for up to 26 full benefit payments during your benefit year.
Cancellation or alteration of your unemployment benefits is likely if you meet any of these criteria:
- Lost your job for reasons related to misconduct
- Quit your job without a good explanation
- Refusal for full-time work without cause
- Failure to report your wages properly
- Inability to work
- Involvement in a strike
- Part-time employment
Working a part-time job while you are unemployed is a good way to supplement your income while you search for a full-time job. However, your Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) will likely be decreased.
Maine is fairly strict on its part-time wages deductions, with any amount over $25 being deducted from your WBA, with your WBA being canceled if your earn wages over $5 of your total WBA.
NOTE: Even if you did not receive payment for your wages on a given week, you MUST report them the week you earned them. So if you worked 20 hours and will be paid $170 the week after you worked those hours, you would claim them the week they were worked, not paid.
Although Maine no longer receives extended benefits from the federal government, it will provide extensions for dislocated workers who are currently in an approved training program.
These benefits will last another 26 weeks and are used to provide workers with a livable wage while they receive training to increase their chances of getting a job. Qualifying for this program requires:
- Being a dislocated worker who has been laid off from their work and has little chance of getting it back or receiving a similar job
- Eligibility to receive unemployment benefits
- Having already received the maximum amount of unemployment benefits
- Being currently enrolled in an approved training program
Maine's Unemployment Insurance Commission must approve the program before extended benefits can be received.