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COVID-19

Is PTLA open? Can I still get help?

To protect our clients and staff, all PTLA offices are closed to the public. If you have a current case, please reach out to our staff by e-mail or phone. If you are looking for legal help, please visit our Contact Us page for information about our up-to-date call in hours. Thank you for your understanding.

NEW! We just added an extra call center shift! Our phone lines will now be open Fridays, 9:00a.m. - 11:30a.m. until further notice. Check our Contact Us page for more details.

What’s going on? I don’t know where to get my questions answered or reliable information.  

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there – but there are also trustworthy sources of information! If you have general questions about COVID-19, what’s going on in the state of Maine, and what services or resources are available, contact 211 Maine. You can just dial 211, or text your zip code to 898-211. Maine 211 is available 24/7, and should be able to answer your basic questions and provide accurate, up-to-date information. 

Maine Equal Justice has created, and will continue to update, a webpage about resources available to low-income Mainers at this time.

I heard the courts were closed. Is my court case still happening?

Most civil and criminal cases are going to be delayed until at least May 1st. This means cases like:

But it is a little more complicated than that – not everything is postponed. Here is the basic guidance from the courts:

  • All in-person court events for family, civil, and criminal dockets are postponed until at least May 1st, 2020. This means if you have a hearing, court appearance, conference, or other related matter scheduled in the     courts between now and then, it will be re-scheduled for a later date.
  • All scheduled in person family mediations are postponed, but video mediation may be an option. The court clerk will contact you.  
  • The courts are still open to the public. If you have questions about your case or what is going on in the courts, you can call the clerk of the court where your case was being held. Here’s a list of courts by County, click yours to find their contact information: http://www.courts.maine.gov/maine_courts/district/index.shtml
  • You can ask the court to hear your case because its urgent. The courts will only allow it in special cases. If the other side asks the court to do hear the case, you can write to the court say why it is not urgent.   

For more information about eviction and rental housing issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, see our page: COVID-19 Maine Eviction and Rental Housing FAQ

 

What if my court case is an emergency or about my safety?

Some court cases where safety or important legal rights are in question, including Protection from Abuse and Child Protective cases, will still be scheduled and held during this time.  

The courts will schedule and hear only the following:  

  •     Arraignments and first appearances of defendants held in custody
  •     Motions for review of bail
  •     Juvenile detention hearings
  •     Protection from Abuse requests and hearings
  •     Protection from Harassment requests and hearings
  •     Child Protection petitions and hearings  
  •     Mental health requests and hearings
  •     Hearings granted on motion

 

Can my electric, water, or other utilities still be shut off if I can't pay during this time?

No. On Monday, March 16th the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) directed utility providers to stop all shut-offs, including disconnection notices or demands immediately. This covers electric, water, natural gas, and certain home telephone providers. According to the Commission: "No one will lose utility service or be threatened with disconnection during this civil emergency," said Chairman Philip L. Bartlett, II. This applies equally to residential and business customers and is effective immediately. Read the full statement from the PUC suspending utility shut-offs.

Can I get unemployment benefits if I lose work because of COVID-19?

You may be able to get unemployment benefits if you lose or have to leave work because of COVID-19.

The Maine Department of Labor has published the following COVID-19 Related Unemployment FAQ

On March 17th, the state passed an emergency law to expand eligibility for unemployment insurance to cover:

  • An employer temporarily shutting down because of COVID-19;
  • A person who is quarantined, but expected to go back to work once the quarantine is over;
  • A person who leaves work because of risk of exposure, or to care for a family member.

This emergency law also:

  • Temporarily waives the one week waiting period for benefits, so that workers can start getting benefits immediately.
  • Suspending the requirement to search for work if an employee is still connected to their employer
  • Made it so having employees filing for unemployment benefits will not affect an employer's experience rating.

News Center Maine put together a guide to filing an unemployment insurance claim related to COVID-19.

From the News Center Maine Guide:

"As long as you file by midnight on Saturday [March 21st, 2020]...your benefits for the entire week will not be negatively impacted, since they look at the week as a whole.

If you have already filed [before Wednesday, March 18th, 2020], it will still be counted, it will simply take the traditional one week waiting period.

You can file your claim here: https://reemployme.maine.gov

First, you’ll need to create an account, which requires your social security number, name, and birth date. After you create a username and password, you can file your claim.

You can file a claim in Maine if:

  • You have worked in the state of Maine or served in the military within the past 18 months.
  • You have not filed a claim for unemployment benefits against another state in the past 12 months.

You will need the following information to complete your claim:

  • Your Social Security Number;
  • Alien Registration Number, if applicable
  • The business name, address and telephone number of each place you worked at during the past 18 months;
  • The jobs you held and the dates you worked for each employer within the past 18-month period.

You will proceed to fill out the information, which is pretty straight forward. When you get to the part about why you are filing, you can say “lack of work.”

The Maine Dept. of Labor also has detailed filing guides: Guide for using ReEmployME and the ReEmployME Instruction Guide."

Read the Maine Department of Labor COVID-19 Unemployment FAQ.

Read the full News Center Maine guide here.

What if I'm a farmworker who worked part of the year in Maine?

If you are a farmworker who worked in Maine, you may be able to collect unemployment benefits in Maine.  Please call our Farmworker Unit for more information at (207) 400-3283 or at (207) 942-0673.

If you are a farmworker who worked in more than one state, you might be able to collect unemployment benefits based on all the work you did in all the places you worked.  Please call our Farmworker Unit for more information at (207) 400-3283 or at (207) 942-0673.

When are my taxes due, now?

The IRS has extended the deadline to file your 2019 personal income taxes to July 15, 2020. They have also extended the deadline to make payments on your 2019 personal taxes until July 15, 2020.

If the IRS is trying to collect taxes from prior years, call us to see if we can help.

The State of Maine has also extended the deadline to file your 2019 income taxes to July 15, 2020 - to match the IRS deadline. This also extends the deadline to make payments on your 2019 Maine income taxes until July 15, 2020.

Where can I find resources about things like healthcare, food, childcare, benefits like SNAP or TANF?

Maine Equal Justice has created, and will continue to update, a webpage with information and resources specifically for low-income Mainers at this time. Check there regularly for more information. We will also be posting the answers to frequently asked questions about legal issues on this page. Check back for more information soon!

PTLA COVID-19 Resources & FAQs

We are working to put together resources and FAQs to address some of the problems people are having because of the COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue to add to this section as things develop. Here are the resources we have so far, beyond what we cover on this general page: