Further to the economic turmoil as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, millions of Americans have found themselves in dire straits in Massachusetts. By the week ending March 28, a record 6.6 million workers had filed their first week of unemployment benefits, suggesting the unemployment numbers seen throughout the Great Recession of 2007-2009 will soon be surpassed. In one of the first bits of good news of the past few weeks, the federal government has introduced a set of measures made to counter some of the crippling effects of layoffs, business closures and reduced hours. Introduced on March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will inject almost $2 trillion into the economy, providing a lifeline to people hardest hit. As outlined by the National Employment Law Project the act's most salient points for the suddenly unemployed include:
- A $1,200 tax rebate available to all taxpayers. Those with dependents may be eligible for a further $500 per dependent.
- A supplementary $600 per week payment on top of state unemployment benefits 'till the end of July.
- The usual 7 day waiting period for brand new unemployment applicants will be waived.
- An additional 13 weeks of paid benefits along with what the state allows until the end of July.
- An expansion of the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits.
Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
Under the newly introduced Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (a provision from the CARES act) even those who would not normally be able to claim unemployment benefits may now qualify. Should you fall into any of the following categories, you may be eligible for support.
- You are sick with COVID-19, or in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.
- You are taking care of someone with COVID-19, or who's in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.
- You are unable to work because your employer shut operations, either permanently or temporarily.
- Your hours happen to be reduced because of COVID-19.
- You are unable to work due to public transportation closures, and do not have the option to work off-site.
- You cannot work because of school closures.
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or perhaps a gig worker whose income has suffered because of COVID-19.
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, your previous earnings will need to meet minimum income requirements. This means at least $5,100 during the last 4 completed calendar quarters, and 30 times your weekly benefit amount.
How Will i Apply for Unemployment in Massachusetts?
The first step in filing your claim for unemployment using the DUA is to gather all the required documentation and information relating to the application procedure. Including:
- Your Social Security Number.
- Your Alien Registration Number if you're not a US citizen.
- Your personal information (complete name, date of birth, home address, phone number, and email address).
- Your union name and local number, if applicable.
- Your history of employment for the past 15 months. This will include the name, address, and telephone number of each employer, your job title, the first and last working days with that employer, and your reason for leaving the task.
- The names, dates of birth and social security numbers for any dependents.
- Confirmation of whether you have made a claim for unemployment, in both Massachusetts or another state, in the past 12 months.
- Severance Information, if applicable
- Military Form DD-214 (for those who have completed military service in the past 18 months).
- Form SF-8 or SF-50 (if you were a federal employee).
Once you've gathered the necessary info, you can file your claim in a single of two ways:
- Online: Create an account on the UI Online Portal. The machine will then prompt you through the applying process.
- By Phone: Call the Teleclaim Centre between 8:30 a.m. -4:30 p.m. Monday -Friday on a single of the following numbers, based on your area code. (877) 626-6800 from area codes 351, 413, 508, 774, and 978; (617) 626-6800 from the other area code
Once you've filed your initial claim, you will have to verify your claim weekly throughout your unemployment. The first claim should fall the first week after you file your initial claim, even when a decision on your application is still pending.
When Will I Hear Back?
As File Unemployment notes, the overall timescale for the DUA to confirm if your application has been successful is 3 weeks. When the DUA declines your application, they'll give back a written Notice of Disqualification. If you wish to appeal the decision, you must follow the process outlined in the notice, and submit the appeal within 10 days of its mailing date. Be sure to continue verifying your claim weekly while the appeal is ongoing.
How Much Am i going to Get?
If your claim qualifies, you will be eligible for around 50% of your weekly income, up to a capped maximum of $823 per week. For a good indication of what you'll get, the DUA provides a handy online calculator on its website. Once you've entered your income period for that base period, the calculator will return an estimation of the items you'll receive (just bear in mind that the estimation is exactly that – your actual entitlement might be different).
In addition to the state benefits, you'll also be eligible to receive a supplementary $600 per week payment as part of the provisions of the CARES Act. If you filed your claim prior to the introduction of the act, you don't need to resubmit your claim in order to benefit: the DUA will review making any due payments separately and retroactively for your usual benefits payment.
How Will I Receive Payment?
You can elect to be paid in one of two ways:
- By direct deposit to your bank account. If you wish to be paid in this manner, you'll need to provide your bank name, account number, and routing number.
- By debit card.
How Long Can one Claim?
Under normal circumstances, unemployment benefits are for sale to a maximum of 30 weeks (26 in periods of low unemployment) in Massachusetts. However, underneath the provision of the CARES act, you'll now be able to claim up to 39 weeks in total.