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December 23, 2020

With federal relief package in limbo, state sends $600 checks to 40,000 Mainers

The state Department of Labor on Monday sent $600 emergency relief payments to 40,000 Mainers unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Announced earlier this month, Gov. Janet Mills authorized the payment under the newly created Pandemic Relief Program to assist unemployed Maine people facing substantial economic hardship as a result of the crisis, according to a news release.

"We are pleased to announce the distribution of this one-time emergency relief payment to families across Maine," said Laura Fortman, commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor. 

The one-time payment is intended for individuals who were likely to exhaust or lose their federal unemployment benefits. Eligibility for the payment was determined using existing, previously filed unemployment claim information.

Individuals who were newly unemployed and filed their first benefit claim application or reopened a prior claim on or after Dec. 13 did not qualify.

The Labor Department said it will work to implement any federal changes to unemployment programs as quickly as possible after they are passed into law. On Monday, Congress passed a sweeping set of legislation to provide $900 billion in pandemic relief, including unemployment benefits. President Donald Trump had been expected to sign the package into law Tuesday, but had not done so by Wednesday morning.

Mills authorized the Maine Department of Labor to distribute the state payments using $25.2 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds.

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