Yesterday, the Maine Legislature passed emergency legislation that was aimed, in part, at temporarily extending eligibility for unemployment benefits to workers that have been impacted by COVID-19. The new law allows workers to become eligible for unemployment benefits immediately in situations that would not typically be covered. Workers can now apply for and receive unemployment benefits in the following circumstances:
- An employer temporarily ceases operation due to COVID-19;
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work once the quarantine is over; and
- An individual leaves employment due to the risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
The new law, available HERE, also waives the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits so that workers may obtain benefits immediately and provides that claims for unemployment will not affect an employer’s experience rating.
The new law also establishes a consumer loan guarantee program to provide low- or no-interest loans for eligible people in Maine who are self-employed; authorizes Governor Mills to adjust state, county, and municipal government deadlines and to permit all public entities to meet by remote participation; and expands the ability of Maine Emergency Medical Services’ Board and staff to take actions more promptly. It also authorizes Governor Mills to prohibit utilities from terminating residential electric and water service, and to determine and direct the manner of the June 2020 primary, if necessary.
The goal of these temporary and emergency measures is to relieve the burden of temporary layoffs, isolation, and medically-necessary quarantine on Maine workers and small businesses. For more information on how the Maine Department of Labor is working through the COVID-19 pandemic, visit https://www.maine.gov/labor/covid19/.