Q. I have many questions. Is there a helpline in Maine?
A. Yes! Connect with Maine specialists at 211 Maine via phone, text, or email – it’s free and confidential. They are available 24 hours a day/7 days a week to provide information and to connect you or someone you know to local programs and services that can help. Interpreters are available. Call 211, text your zip code to 898-211, or email [email protected].
Q. I have lost income from my job because of COVID-19. What can I do?
A. If you worked for an employer and earned at least $5,141 during the last year, you may be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. The best way to find out is to apply.
Q. Are there new rules about Unemployment Insurance during the COVID-19 crisis?
A. Yes! Governor Mills’ emergency COVID-19 legislation, signed into law March 18, enacted temporary measures that will help relieve the financial burden of temporary layoffs, isolation, and medically necessary quarantine created by COVID-19. This made unemployment benefits available to individuals who otherwise would have been able and available to work and who maintain contact with their employers. Anyone who has filed for unemployment benefits on or after March 15 will be reviewed under these new temporary measures.
• MDOL has waived the work search requirement through May 14
• After the initial week that you file a claim, you must continue to file on a weekly basis.
• The waiting week has been waived as a result of the new UI legislation. If your account indicates that you have a waiting week, don’t worry, ignore it.
• The Department recommends filing a claim on a computer, rather than a cell phone. For more information and resources, visit the Department’s COVID-19 page: (www.maine.gov/labor/covid19/), and follow the Maine Department of Labor on Facebook @MElabor and Twitter @maine_labor.
Pine Tree Legal Aid and Maine Equal Justice can help explain.
Q. How do I apply for UI?
A. You can apply for UI in three ways:
• Online is probably the fastest way to apply: reemployme.maine.gov/accessme/faces/login/login.xhtml
• Telephone: 1-800-593-7660, Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-12:15 PM (For people with hearing impairment, use TTY/Relay: Maine relay 711.) Please note that many people are difficulty reaching this number because of the very large number of claims that are being filed.
• By mail at Benefits Services Division, 47 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0047
When you apply be sure to have:
• Your Social Security number (and alien registration number if applicable);
•The business name, address, and telephone number of each place you have worked in the last 18 months;
• The jobs that you held during this period and the dates you worked for each employer;
• Information about any dependents you have, including the Social Security numbers of any dependent children;
• For non-citizens, your work authorization, green card, and any government documents that shows your immigration status in the U.S.
Q. I don’t speak English well and need help filling out my application for unemployment insurance. Where can I get help?
A: The Department of Labor’s automated phone system offers instructions in English, Spanish, and French. If you need an interpreter for any other language, the Department of Labor will arrange for one. When you place your call and it is answered, press “1” and then press “3” to be connected to a representative who will arrange for an interpreter.
Catholic Charities of Maine Refugee and Resettlement Services can help refugees, granted asylees, secondary migrants, special immigrant visa holders, and temporary visa holders. Feel free to call, even if you don’t fit into one of those categories; multilingual staff can help. In greater Portland, call Rosine, (207) 807-7656; greater Lewiston, including Augusta, call Fatuma, (207) 317-9109.
Q. Will immigrants get stimulus checks under the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed through the Senate?
A. Immigrants will get stimulus checks if they have a Social Security number. If they do not have a Social Security number, they will not get a check. Some immigrants use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, and pay taxes, but don’t have Social Security numbers. They will not receive checks.
Q. Can renters be evicted for non-payment of rent during the crisis?
A. If landlords have mortgages backed or owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or other federal entities, they cannot evict tenants for 120 days after the coronavirus relief package passes, and they are not allowed to assess penalties or fees for nonpayment of rent.
Q. Will my benefits be penalized if I don’t attend my DHHS, FedCap, or GA appointments?
A. No, do not go to any DHHS, FedCAp, or GA appointments until the quarantine is finished. If you have questions for DHHS, you can get help by phone or online. DHHS workers are available by phone, Monday-Friday, 7 AM-4:30 PM; 1-800-442-6003 or 207-624-4168. Request help online at My Maine Connection. Office of Family Independence offices are accepting drop-offs of paperwork only; offices are open 9 AM-11 AM and 1 PM-3 PM, but could close to the public on short notice. The best way to work with OFI is to apply, renew, or update your case online at My Maine Connection. You can also submit paperwork by fax, email, or by the postal service. DHHS/OFI will continue to process benefits and requests as normal. Phone: (855) 797-4357.
Please note that clients say they are receiving robo-calls (recorded messages), stating that the client’s benefits are going to close. This is a scam. DHHS will not use recorded messages to contact you. If you get this call, please hang up.
Q. Are the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices open?
A. No, they are closed until at least April 7 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. However, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. To schedule an emergency appointment contact the USCIS Contact Center (www.uscis.gov/contactcenter).
USCIS domestic field offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments or naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure. They will automatically be rescheduled once normal operations resume. Individuals who had InfoPass appointments with a Field Office must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center.
Please check the USCIS Field Offices page (www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-uscis-office/field-offices) to see if your field office has reopened (www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-office-closings) before contacting the USCIS Contact Center.
Q. Will seeking medical attention impact a future public charge decision? (A new public charge rule went into effect on February 24, 2020. Public charge is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or get a green card).
A. Testing, treatment, or preventive care for coronavirus WILL NOT impact Public Charge. It is important that everyone who needs medical care to treat or prevent coronavirus (COVID-19) gets that care. If you have symptoms and need to seek medical treatment, you should get it, even if it will be paid for by Medicaid. USCIS states that testing and treatment for coronavirus will not negatively affect any future Public Charge decision. If preventive care (like a vaccine) becomes available, you will be able to access that care as well. A new Public Charge rule went into effect on February 24, 2020. Public charge is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or get a green card.
Much of the information included on this Frequently Asked Questions page was pulled from Maine Equal Justice, Pine Tree Legal Services, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP), and Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services documents. Readers are urged to contact these organizations for assistance.