By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff
The State of Maine has amended its Employment Security Law to comply with the provisions of federal law enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary measures address the financial burden of temporary layoffs by making unemployment benefits available to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19. The legislation temporarily revises eligibility requirements to provide unemployment coverage in situations not typically covered, such as:
- 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 must take a leave of absence to care for a dependent who is affected.
The provisions of the act apply for the duration of the state of emergency declared by the governor on March 15, 2020, through 30 days following the termination of that state of emergency. Note, the state reiterates that the temporary measures in the new legislation apply to all covered workers in the state (Ch. 617, L. 2020).
Benefit charging. If an individual is dislocated or temporarily laid off as a result of the state of emergency, benefits paid to that individual may not be charged against the experience rating record of any employer but must be charged to the Maine’s General Fund.
Direct reimbursement employers. The federal CARES Act provides federal funds to cover 50% of the state unemployment benefits that would have otherwise been charged to direct reimbursable employers. According to FAQs from the Maine Department of Labor, the state cannot waive the remaining 50%. Having no source of funding available to cover these costs would result in the transfer of the liability to taxable private employers.
Temporary leave of absence. During the state of emergency, an individual who is on a temporary leave of absence due to a medical quarantine or isolation restriction, a demonstrated risk of exposure or infection, or a need to care for a dependent family member as a result of COVID-19, is not disqualified from receiving benefits during this absence as long as the individual continues to remain able and available to work for, and maintains contact with, the relevant employer.
Waiting week. The waiting period requirement is waived for an individual who is dislocated or temporarily laid off as a result of the state of emergency.
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