Months after the state unveiled a new system that Mainers must use to file claims for unemployment benefits, frustrated state legislators still are reporting problems from constituents trying to use it.

Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, said complaints are coming in every week. At the end of January, Fecteau said, House Democrats had received more than 30 complaints about the new system.

Fecteau, who with Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, leads the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, said constituents who haven’t received unemployment benefits are having a hard time paying bills.

“Is the (Labor department) offering assistance on those bills?” Fecteau said. “Those are important questions that have been left unanswered.”

The new system, called ReEmployMe, is a cloud-based filing system developed for a four-state consortium spearheaded by the Mississippi Department of Unemployment Security.

Dale Smith, the deputy executive director of the Mississippi department, said it’s not surprising that Maine faced problems. When Mississippi officials began working on their system in 2013, Smith said, they experienced roughly six months of struggles similar to Maine’s, prompting numerous complaints from unemployed people and elected officials. “It’s something that can’t be done without challenges,” Smith said last month.


Smith said each state’s system is customized, so each system launch is somewhat like starting from scratch. Maine’s system alone contains over 1 million lines of code, he said.

But Smith added that it was necessary to modernize the filing system.

“We knew it would be a benefit for them to reuse the technology that had already been developed,” he said, “and all the states could benefit from reducing the administrative hours that were at stake.”

As of Jan. 30, Smith said, 17,500 Maine customers had used the system to file a new claim or continue an existing claim. In that same period, Mississippi had 20,500 customers who successfully filed claims. Since 2016, when Mississippi made the system compatible for multiple tenants to use, over 111,000 customers have used it successfully, he said.

Smith agreed with Maine Department of Labor reports that user error is to blame for errors in some cases, including cases of claimants not filling out the work search section of the system online. Without filling that out, a claim is incomplete.

“That probably is the largest volume of people early on that did not get paid,” Smith said.


“A lot of times people who do not get benefits are upset and they’re angry and they think something hasn’t worked for them,” Smith said. “I think they’re getting to the point where they can deliver the answer to the customer, whether it’s the answer they want to hear or not.”

Fecteau said legislators have questions that the department has not answered.

“The bottom line is it’s extremely important that folks continue to reach out if they’re having issues,” he said.

Smith said Maine already is beginning to turn the corner in solving problems with the system.

On its Facebook page, the Maine Department of Labor posted a message from Smith dated Feb. 2 acknowledging that problems have sprung up.

Smith’s statements were not met warmly online. One Facebook user simply wrote “Slow and what a joke,” while another criticized the department for not answering phone calls from people trying to access their benefits.


“Trying to shift the blame to people that tried to call is shameful,” one user wrote.

However, the state’s labor department wrote a response, refuting such claims, saying any assertions that they shut down phone lines are false.

“People were never locked out of communications,” the department wrote. “Our telephone lines for unemployment services are historically heavy and wait times and calls answered have been in line with what happens every year.”


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