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AUGUSTA, Maine — Self-employed workers and independent contractors will be able to apply for federally funded unemployment benefits starting on Friday, the Maine Department of Labor announced on Tuesday.
Unincorporated self-employed workers make up about 10 percent of Maine’s labor force, and are ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits, which are paid for by taxes on employers. A federal stimulus package passed at the end of March created a new program extending unemployment benefits to these workers and others who are not typically eligible.
But the Maine Department of Labor had been slow to implement the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, citing software development and the need for further guidance from the federal government. Most states are taking applications for the program, a Bangor Daily News analysis found last week. A few have begun to distribute benefits.
People whose claims do not require “further review” should receive benefits within seven days, the agency said in a release on Tuesday. Benefits are retroactive to when individuals lost employment opportunities, or as early as March 15. The benefits will include an additional $600 per week on top of regular benefits, which comes from another federally funded program.