The Maine Department of Labor’s Career Center Office on Mollison Way in Lewiston was closed on Friday afternoon, July 17, 2020 with a sign on it’s front door with a number to call for service. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — In the wake of COVID-19, more than 80,000 Mainers are receiving unemployment benefits, and for months they haven’t had to look for work.

The Maine Department of Labor last week postponed that usual job-search requirement for a second time. Mainers who are permanently separated from their employer now must start searching for work the week of Aug. 9. Mainers who are self-employed or who still expect to go back to their employer, have until Sept. 5.

But details have been sparse, particularly for those Mainers who have never been through the process before. What are the job search requirements exactly? What will those 80,000-plus Mainers have to do? What should they know as the work requirement deadline looms?

We asked. The Maine Department of Labor answered.

How does someone prove they’ve done that job search?

You will have to self-attest on your weekly filing that you searched for work, according to the DOL, but you’ll also need to back that up. Called a company to inquire about openings? Applied for a job? You’ll have to provide the name of the person you spoke with and contact information for the company. If you applied online, you should hang on to the online confirmation that tells you the company received your resume or application, just in case you’re selected for a work search audit. Work search audits involve validating the job search with the both the person receiving unemployment and and the company you approached or applied with.

How many searches per week does someone have to provide?

There is no minimum, according to the DOL. You’ll need to complete a work search log when you file your weekly certification, and that will outline your work search activities. While there is no required minimum number of contacts, you are expected to document your work search and show you are actively seeking new employment.

What counts as searching? Looking at ads online? Sending in a resume? Making cold calls?

Contacting a company by letter, email, in person or by phone to inquire about work, submitting a resume or completing a job application. Job fairs are good because you can reach multiple potential employers at once. You can look online, but for it to count as a valid job search activity you’ll need to contact the employer.

The DOL has been referring folks to Maine JobLink. Is that the only source people need to use to search or do they need multiple?

Once the work search waiver expires, you’ll be required to have a Maine JobLink account, but you can use any job search method you want on top of that. Also, just looking at jobs on Joblink does not count as an adequate job search, according to the DOL. Joblink offers leads, but you’ll need to follow through by submitting an application or resume. The Maine CareerCenters also offer job hunting resources. They’re at mainecareercenter.gov.

What happens if there’s nothing in a person’s field or any jobs they’re qualified for that week? For example, a paralegal can’t find paralegal work within 30 miles or a car salesman is only encountering openings for people who have experience selling boats.

The DOL looks at work that is “reasonably fitted.” A new job does not need to exactly match your last job. If you are having a hard time finding work that fits your skill set, the DOL recommends reaching out to the CareerCenters, who can help identify transferable skills, connect you with training and develop a reemployment plan. You don’t have to apply for a job each week in order for your job search to count. You can also take other actions, like attending a job fair or contacting an employer. Just make sure you get their contact information for your log.

Do people have to apply for jobs that pay less than they were making before or are a step down in the industry? And if so, where is that line? 

The DOL expects that you’ll look for suitable work. If you apply for a job and then refuse the work citing pay, the DOL will determine if the work was suitable. After 10 weeks, work is considered suitable as long as it’s a job you’re reasonably fitted for and as long as it pays equal to or more than the average weekly wage in the state — currently $889.34 a week, or $46,246 a year. Some situations may require a fact-finding interview to see if the work you refused was suitable or not.


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