Gov. Janet Mills today signed an executive order that will reinstate weekly work search activity requirements for all unemployment claimants, beginning Sunday, Oct. 4.

All claimants must thereafter record their work search efforts to retain eligibility to receive unemployment benefits. The only exception is for individuals in medical quarantine because of potential COVID-19 exposure.

Work search activity requirements for those who were permanently separated from their employer were previously reinstated on Aug. 9. Today’s order applies to those who are self-employed and workers planning on returning to their employer. Work search activity requirements for these claimants had been waived through Oct. 3, as that was 30 days after Maine’s State of Civil Emergency ended.

The work search requirement is being reinstated now that Maine has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country, and Maine businesses are reopening, actively seeking workers, and are demonstrating that work can be performed safely.

Self-employed individuals will need to attest to engaging in activities designed to fully reopen their business. More information will be released prior to the work search activity requirement being reinstated.

The Maine Department of Labor had also previously expanded its definition of “work search” to include work-related activities such as attending skill development seminars or networking events, which makes complying with the work search requirement easier.

“Maine CareerCenters are ramping up and are continuously adding individualized services as well as virtual group classes and workshops,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said. “There are currently about 13,000 jobs listed on the Maine JobLink. We are matching jobseekers with in-demand jobs that fit their skills, such as in healthcare, retail, and manufacturing. More open positions are added to the JobLink every day.”

Beginning with the weekly certification covering the week of Oct. 4-10, which can be filed starting on Oct. 11, all unemployment claimants will be required to answer questions about their work search activities.

In response to the circumstances caused by the pandemic, the department expanded possible work search activities to include opportunities to enhance individual's marketability during these challenging economic times.

Work search activities are:

– Attending a job fair/virtual job fair hosted by a CareerCenter

– Participating in CareerCenter virtual reemployment services

– Participating in a CareerCenter virtual workshop

– Applying for a job for which you are reasonably qualified

– Interviewing for a job for which you are reasonably qualified

– Contacting an employer to inquire as to whether the employer is hiring

– Participating in professional job-related education or skills development

– Participating in networking events related to a job or occupation for which you are reasonably qualified

For example, taking a class with Coursera counts as a work search activity. The Maine Department of Labor announced in August that Maine has partnered with Coursera, a leading online learning platform, in its Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative. This initiative is designed to support governments worldwide in providing unemployed workers with free access to 3,800 online courses.

The goal of this partnership is to help laid off workers develop the knowledge and skills to become re-employed more quickly. Up to 5,000 unemployed Mainers can sign up to take classes through the Coursera platform.

Registration for Coursera must occur by September 30th, 2020. Learners enrolled will have until the end of the year to complete the courses. For more information on how to sign up, contact a CareerCenter: mainecareercenter.gov.

All claimants are also required to be registered on the Maine JobLink, a free job search tool, where claimants can upload their resumes and employers can post their job openings: https://joblink.maine.gov/ada/r/.

The CareerCenters hold frequent virtual workshops on how to use the Maine JobLink. To register any of the CareerCenter workshops, visit: mainecareercenter.com/employment/workshops.shtml.

More information and answers to frequently asked questions on the work search requirement can be found at: maine.gov/unemployment/faq/worksearch/.

If an employer has offered work to an employee and that employee refused the work, the employer should notify the Department. A fact-finding would be held to determine if there was good cause for the refusal of work. If no good cause is determined, then the claimant would no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Employers can report refusals of work here: maine.gov/unemployment/ucbr./