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AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Labor launched the third and final federal coronavirus unemployment assistance program Tuesday, extending benefits for 13 more weeks for people who previously exhausted them.
Workers who exhausted their unemployment insurance prior to the pandemic were eligible for an extended 13 weeks as part of a program, Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment, established as part of a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill back in March. But benefits for these workers were held up for nearly two months as the state worked to implement new federal programs.
read the latest on unemployment
In mid-May, workers who had exhausted benefits were temporarily rolled into the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is mostly aimed at self-employed workers but can offer assistance to others ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits. They will now be automatically enrolled in the new program, the labor department said Wednesday.
Since mid-March, the department has seen 162,000 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 72,400 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to state data, though claims do not line up one-to-one with individuals. The department has paid out more than $882 million in state and federal benefits.
For the week ending June 20, the most recent week for which data is available, the state saw 90,800 weekly certifications filed between state and federal programs. Weekly certifications have dropped over the past month as the state has gradually allowed economic activities to resume, but the nearly 91,000 weekly certifications still equal 13 percent of Maine’s labor force.
Workers still receiving unemployment at the end of July are likely to see benefits drop as one of the federal programs, which provides an extra $600 to all workers receiving unemployment, is set to expire barring congressional action. Maine workers will receive the supplemental benefits through the week ending July 25 because the program does not allow the benefits to be paid for weeks ending in August.