After the layoff: Impatience can prove costly

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Throughout my working life, I’ve been proud to know that a portion of my state tax dollars helps subsidize programs designed to help people who can’t always help themselves.

Admittedly, I never thought I’d be one of them.

Life on the unemployment line today is far different than it was when I was laid off from the first job I had after graduating from college.

Long gone are the days of standing in line at the local unemployment office, followed by a lengthy session of signing form after form until your fingers cramp up.

Today, thanks to the advantages of modern technology, the process of filing an unemployment claim is easy, speedy and convenient. All you need is a computer with access to the Internet. If you don’t own a computer, Internet access is available at many local libraries. Plus, you can file a claim on the phone or through the mail.

The most time-consuming part of the process is gathering detailed information about yourself, your former employer and your wages. It’s also important to file your unemployment claim as soon as possible, because it can take several weeks to process your initial claim.

Due to a misunderstanding on my part, I filed my first claim late. As a result, I was unable to collect unemployment checks covering my first two weeks of eligibility. A costly mistake, both literally and figuratively.

Once your information is in the system, you can file claims quickly and easily online or on the phone. You can also file by mail, but the process will take longer.

If you have questions, knowledgeable staff members are ready to help, but be forewarned that trying to reach them on the phone can test your patience, due to high call volumes.

The Maine Department of Labor also has a number of branch offices, which offer workshops on a variety of topics, including resume writing and job interviewing skills. The DOL will also introduce you to LEON (Labor Exchange on the Net), a computerized job search engine that can assist you in finding work that’s in line with your skill set. For more information, log on to

You can also expect to take part in a fact-finding interview, during which a representative from the DOL calls you to follow up on your initial claim and to confirm the information you submitted is correct and up to date. You’ll be notified well in advance of the date and time to expect the call, which lasts approximately 15 to 20 minutes, on average.

You’ll also be provided with a form to detail your job search, which includes names and addresses of the companies you’ve contacted in your quest to find a new job. You may also be asked to submit that list so the DOL can monitor your progress.

Should you be fortunate enough to find a job, be mindful of whether to accept the offer.

Impatient to return to work, I jumped at the first job offered to me. Days later, I changed my mind and declined the offer. The decision cost me dearly – in a very literal sense – because I lost my eligibility for unemployment benefits as a result.

Ironically, in order for me to become eligible for future benefits, I need to get a job and prove I’ve earned four times the weekly benefit amount I was entitled to. Once that threshold is met, I can resume applying for assistance if I’m laid off again.

Until then, I’ve still got no job. And now, no unemployment assistance.

Talk about costly mistakes.

Next: “You’re hired!”

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Sean-Baker-op.jpgSean Baker of South Portland has a personal perspective on unemployment: his more than two-decade career in broadcasting came to a sudden halt in February when he was laid off by a Portland radio station. He’s writing about the experience in this series for The Forecaster, and can be reached at