Today, Governor Baker announced details for the initial implementation of federal unemployment benefits in the CARES Act, the federal based COVID-19 relief package. This federal program, enacted on March 27, 2020, will be administered by states. Today’s announcement reflects the first set of partial guidance that Massachusetts will immediately implement to support unemployed workers. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is moving to implement the new benefit programs and awaits additional guidance from the federal government for the remainder of benefits authorized by the CARES Act.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
For individuals currently collecting benefits from regular Unemployment Compensation, an additional $600 per week for individuals collecting benefits from regular unemployment compensation is being implemented by DUA. The additional $600 will be added to unemployment benefits retroactive to March 29, 2020 and will begin being disbursed to claimants this week.
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 UI 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.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
A benefit will be available for individuals not covered under traditional unemployment insurance like the self-employed or gig workers or those who do not qualify for lack of wages. DUA is now working with a vendor to build a new platform to disburse those benefits. This platform is expected to begin processing claims on or about April 30, 2020.
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 will not be able to claim benefits directly through the UI Online System in Massachusetts as of this time. The Department of Unemployment Assistance has engaged a vendor to build a new platform to disburse PUA benefits. The platform is expected to begin accepting PUA claims by April 30, 2020. 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 should continue to check for updates about the new platform, which will be ready this month. Once the system is up and running, 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 13-week extension of benefits for individuals who exhausted their previous benefits is not yet available as DUA continues to await federal implementation guidance.
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. The Department of Unemployment Assistance is awaiting additional federal guidance on how to implement and administer this program and the extended weeks of PEUC benefits are not yet available.
No action is needed by claimants at this time. Eligible claimants should continue to check for updates, which will be made available as soon as the state receives information from the federal government.
To learn more about unemployment insurance and how to apply, visit the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance website. The Department of Unemployment Assistance has made specific web page updates that include the latest COVID-19 guidance for employee qualifications. Please also consider attending one of the virtual town hall meetings being hosted by DUA to help individuals apply for unemployment successfully.