On March 18, 2020, Governor Baker signed a bill (S.2599) to provide unemployment assistance to workers impacted by COVID-19. This legislation allows new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is hosting daily town hall meetings where they will take constituents through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim and taking questions from claimants across the Commonwealth.

If you need help with your application, have questions, or are experiencing issues, please attend one of the virtual town halls (more information below) or contact DUA using these online contact forms. Please note, when you receive a call from DUA, it will very likely come from a blocked/unknown phone number or from a (617) 626-XXXX – please do not screen these calls or you may miss your contact from DUA.

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Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) Virtual Town Halls
In order to better meet the needs of customers whose employment has been affected by the coronavirus, DUA is hosting daily town hall meetings where they take constituents through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim and taking questions from claimants across the Commonwealth.

Town halls are offered both over the phone and online.

If joining by phone, you must sign up by 5:30 p.m. the night before the town hall. Phone participants can press *3 to ask a question and a live person will put your question in the queue.

If joining online, you may sign up, but it is not required. You can access the town hall online by visiting this link. Online viewers can also ask a question through the chat function on your screen.

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CARES Act Unemployment Benefits
On March 27, 2020, the federal government enacted the CARES Act which extends unemployment benefit eligibility to individuals who are:

  • self-employed, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors;
  • seeking part-time employment;
  • have an insufficient work history to qualify for benefits;
  • have exhausted all rights to regular or extended benefits under state or federal law or to Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC);
  • have been laid off from churches and religious institutions and are not eligible for benefits under state law;
  • or otherwise would not qualify for regular or extended benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
The FPUC program will provide an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), Trade Readjustment Act (TRA), and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DA). The Department has already begun implementing the FPUC program for regular UC claimants. The $600 will be added to all eligible weeks of benefits retroactive to March 29, 2020 and continuing until July 31, 2020. FPUC monetary disbursements will begin immediately in Massachusetts for those who are currently collecting benefits on regular UC claims. Those receiving PEUC, PUA, and EB will receive the additional $600 payments retroactive to March 29, 2020 as soon as their claims are processed and determined eligible.

Eligible claimants who are already receiving unemployment benefits do not need to do anything for the additional $600 to be added to their weekly benefit amount. This benefit will be available for all new claimants filing for regular Unemployment Compensation as well, which can be done at mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
PUA will provide up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not working as a result of COVID-19 and are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others who otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or PEUC.

These individuals must apply through the PUA application (separate from UI Online) which became available on April 20, 2020. More information is here.

Eligible claimants under PUA will be retroactively compensated with this benefit beginning February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19, whichever date is later. The last week this benefit is payable is the week ending December 26, 2020.

Eligible claimants must apply here. Eligible claimants will receive this benefit backdated to February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
The PEUC program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits. The first week a claimant can be compensated on this benefit is the week beginning March 29, 2020, and the last payable week is the week ending December 26, 2020.

On May 21, 2020, the Baker Administration announced that Massachusetts residents who are eligible for the federal CARES Act and qualify for having exhausted their regular unemployment compensation may now receive up to 13 additional weeks of benefits under the new Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. The launch of this program marks the third and final benefit available for the Commonwealth through the CARES Act.

Individuals who exhausted their standard benefits but were receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) must apply to claim weekly benefits. Residents should apply through the standard unemployment benefits portal available here.More information about Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation can be found at mass.gov/peuc.

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Temporary Layoffs/Furloughed Employees
At the state level, temporarily unemployed/furloughed workers should be eligible for unemployment benefits. According to DUA, workers who are temporarily unemployed due to lack of work resulting from COVID-19 who expect to return to work with their employer will be considered on standby status. Those laid-off employees will be expected to reasonably maintain contact with their employer while unemployed and be available for work when the employer offers it. The employer should have employees ready to return when the employer is ready to resume business.

Working Part-Time While Receiving Unemployment Benefits
If you work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits, either through traditional state unemployment insurance (UI) or federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), you may still qualify for unemployment benefits. The weekly benefit amount you receive may be adjusted based on how much you earn from your part-time job.

If you work part-time hours during weeks in which you request unemployment benefits, you may still be paid benefits if your gross wages (total wages before taxes are deducted) are less than your weekly benefit amount. Any earnings greater than 1/3 of your weekly benefit amount (known as your earnings disregard) will be deducted dollar-for-dollar from your weekly benefit payment.

You must report any changes in your unemployment status while you are receiving benefits. It is your responsibility to report all your earnings when requesting weekly benefits if you get a part-time job.

If you work full-time hours in any given week, you will be considered employed “full-time” regardless of wages, and you will not be eligible for benefits for that week. Full-time is generally between 35 and 40 hours per week. You are considered employed full-time if you are working the customary full-time schedule in your job or occupation.

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Unemployment Benefits as Taxable Income
Unemployment benefits are counted as taxable income. You can withhold taxes from your weekly benefit payments. The most streamlined way to do this is to complete the tax withholding section of UI Online when you first apply. If you want to have taxes withheld after you’ve already applied, you can edit your claim to have taxes withheld.

To view your tax withholdings from your weekly unemployment benefits, visit your Claimant Home Page (log into UI Online and go to My Home Page).If you don’t elect to have taxes withheld from your weekly benefits, you will be responsible for paying federal and state taxes directly.

Report Unemployment Fraud
The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment has announced that criminals are attempting to file fraudulent unemployment claims as part of a national fraud scheme. If you believe someone has applied for benefits using your information, please file a report here