Employee Unemployment FAQ: COVID-19

Answers to frequently asked questions about filing for unemployment during the COVID-19 emergency.

In order to assist unemployed workers, and in order to address the many drastic impacts the current COVID-19 emergency is having on Massachusetts employers and workers, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) enacted emergency regulations on March 16, 2020, and has taken a number of other steps to assist you during the current COVID-19 emergency. Additionally, this week Governor Baker signed new legislation waiving the waiting week for unemployment benefits in cases related to COVID-19.  

The following questions and answers explain the recent changes at DUA and clarify some other questions you may have regarding DUA during this difficult time. 

Table of Contents

Monetary determinations

My wage information on my monetary determination is incorrect. How can I fix it?

If you do not agree with the amount of wages reported to DUA, you can complete and return the Wage and Employer Correction Sheet included with your monetary determination. DUA will ask you to provide proof of the wage amounts you are disputing and then will request verification of wage information directly from your employer.

If it is determined that you do not have enough wages under either the primary or the alternate base period to establish a claim, or if you continue to disagree with the amount of wages reported, you have the right to file an appeal and to have a hearing.

I filed my claim and the monetary determination is pending. When will I get a determination?

When you file your claim and your wages earned are not already reported to DUA or are incomplete, a wage request is sent to your employer requesting that they complete the form and return the information with your wage amounts for each quarter you were employed in your primary base period (the last four completed calendar quarters). If your employer does not respond by the 10-day deadline on the wage request, a second request is automatically generated to the employer and DUA will ask you to provide the wage amounts and proof of those wage amounts. So, this may take a couple of weeks to resolve.

My monetary determination is missing some earnings, how do I resolve this?

In some cases, the DUA’s online system already has wages which we have received from your former employer(s). But, there may be missing wages, which you will need to provide yourself. If when you file your claim, your wages earned are not already reported to DUA or are incomplete, a wage request is sent to your employer requesting  the information with your wage amounts for each quarter you were employed in your primary base period (the last four completed calendar quarters). If your employer was not identified at the time of filing, no wage request can be sent until the employer is identified. Don’t forget that many employers may have “legal names” that are different from the name the business commonly uses. We need to have the “legal” name of the employer. This should be on your W-2.

I received a “monetary determination.” What does this mean?

DUA looks at your wages over the prior 15 months to determine whether you are eligible for benefits. The monetary determination will tell you if you are eligible for unemployment benefits from an earnings prospective, and, if you are eligible, it will tell you what you can expect to receive each week (your weekly benefit amount).

Determining monetary eligibility is the first step in determining if you are eligible for unemployment. The monetary determination alone is not an indication that you will receive benefits. You will receive a separate notice of approval when you are fully approved.

Claim-related

I am trying to file a claim. Do I need the legal name of my employer?  

Yes. You need to file for benefits using the employer’s exact name as it is stated on your W-2. 

My claim has already been filed and I want to know the status of my claim. How do I find that?

Please check the Claimant Home Page (log into UI Online and go to “My Home Page”). This is where DUA will post any important messages. In addition, you will be able to see an overview of your benefits, including details regarding your benefit rate and weeks remaining to claim (“monetary eligibility”).  

This page will prompt you on when next to claim benefits. It also includes your payments overview, including your last payment date, amount paid, payment method, and any tax withholdings.

Do I need to file a new claim, If I have filed in the past year & returned to work?

If you have filed a UI claim with in the past 52 weeks, you do not have to file a new claim. You will be able to reopen your prior claim. When you log onto UI Online using the account information from your prior claim, click on the Reopen Claim link. You will need to validate your contact and payment information and provide employment information for the new employment you had since you filed your prior claim.

Processing of the Reopen Claim is often quicker because your UI claim was already established. Please note that you will be paid using the same method of payment as you used previously unless you change it. If you had debit card as your method of payment, you can use the debit card that was issued to you already.  

Can I still add my dependent children’s information, if I didn't have them on my original claim.

Yes. You can add a dependent child to your UI claim even after you file your claim. After you log into UI Online, select the “View and Maintain Account Information” link on the left hand side of your Claimant Home Page. A menu of options will open where you can select Dependent Information. Click "ADD" and complete the questions to add a dependent child.

(NOTE: you can also update your contact information or payment methods in the “View and Maintain Account Information” link.)

Can I add more employment information to my claim, if I need to add/update my claim?

Adding additional base period employers to the unemployment claim, after an initial claim has already been processed is a function that must be done by staff. Please feel free to reach out to customer service at mass.gov/forms/covid-19-department-of-unemployment-assistance-contact-request  

What if my claim expired already? 

You will be able to apply soon for the additional 13 weeks of benefits if your benefit year expired any time after July 31, 2020. Please check back for updates.

Eligibility

My employer has shut down because of the coronavirus? Should I apply for unemployment?

Yes. Apply as soon as possible. Please apply online.

My employer has reduced my hours because of COVID-19. Should I apply for unemployment benefits?

Yes, if your employer has reduced your hours of work or your wages, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits.

I have been quarantined, and my employer has told me to return after quarantine. Should I apply?

Yes. Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to lack of work because of COVID-19 will be eligible for unemployment benefits. They will be considered unemployed due to lack of work regardless of whether they are quarantined, laid off, furloughed, or if their workplace is fully or partially shut down temporarily. This status is granted automatically for the first 4 weeks, and then, your employer may request that this status be extended to 8 weeks. If necessary, DUA has authority to allow for longer periods. 

Instead of looking for other work, you must remain in reasonable contact with your employer, and be prepared to go back to work when the employer has hours for you and you are able to do so.  

I have been quarantined, and my employer has told me not to return after quarantine. Should I apply?

Yes. A worker who is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional, or to care for a family member, and is not allowed to return to work is eligible for unemployment benefits. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able. 

What if my workplace is shut down, and I am working from home?

You are not eligible for unemployment if you are working full-time hours in any given week, even from home. If you were a full-time employee before your workplace shut down and you now are working part-time hours from home, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits.

I am concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 and plan to quit my job. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

It depends. Under current law, employees that demonstrate that they left work due to “urgent, compelling, and necessitous circumstances” are eligible for benefits. Such determinations are driven by the facts of the individual case. An employee who leaves work because of a fear of being exposed to COVID-19 will need to demonstrate, among other things, that such fear was reasonable in the circumstances.

Additional Resources

Benefits & payment

I filed an unemployment claim because I'm unable to work due to COVID-19. When will I get a payment?

If you have selected direct deposit as your method of payment, you will not receive your first payment until at least 9 days from the date of requesting this payment method (The direct deposit status will show as “Prenote” --Prenotes are sent and verified before direct deposit payroll can be processed). If you have selected debit card for your payments, there is a similar time-frame to receive the card in the mail. Once you activate your debit card, you will have access to your first payment.

After you have successfully completed the initial claim process, you will certify for benefits each Sunday thereafter in order to be paid. If, based on your answers to the certification questions, you are eligible for benefits that week, you should receive your benefits on the Tuesday of that week.

If I’m approved, how much will my weekly benefit be?

You will get approximately half of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $823. You also get $25 per dependent child up to an amount that is half of your UI check. Calculate your weekly benefit amount by using the benefits calculator

For how long can I collect benefits?

With the addition of the CARES Act you can receive up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, total, in a benefit year.

Will I get benefits for the first week I am unemployed? 

Yes. If you applied on or after March 10, 2020, you will get unemployment benefits for the first week of unemployment.

My employer laid me off temporarily but offered part-time work. Can I work and collect benefits?

Yes. But you must report any earnings. Once the earnings reach a certain amount, your unemployment benefits will be reduced on a dollar for dollar basis until you reach the amount of your weekly benefit, in which case, you will be ineligible for that week. This calculation is done on a weekly basis, so you need to accurately report your earnings to DUA each week. 

I’m self-employed but no longer able to work due to COVID-19. Am I eligible for benefits?  

Yes, through a program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in the CARES Act. The CARES Act extends eligibility for benefits 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).

Please visit our page on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for more information on eligibility and how to apply. 

Spanish resources can be found on our Spanish Pandemic Unemployment Assistance page and further translated resources can be found here.

I was already receiving benefits when the COVID-19 crisis hit. What will happen when I hit 26 weeks?

You will be entitled to an additional 13 weeks of benefits under the new CARES Act, for a total of 39 weeks.

I filed my unemployment claim, got my monetary determination, and certified for benefits for my first week. My payment shows that the payment is “Pending”? What does that mean and when am I going to get paid my benefits?

If you signed up for Direct Deposit for your payments, that may be the reason it is Pending. In such cases, the status may show as “PreNote”. Direct deposit can take on average nine days from the date it is set-up to process payments. This message indicates your bank is still in the process of authenticating for payment.

HINT: Do not click “Edit” and re-enter your Direct Deposit information if it is at PreNote. This will only reset the authentication process timeframe. Only edit your Direct Deposit information if the bank account information was rejected.

Miscellaneous

I am trying to log into my UI Online account, but I need to reset my password. How do I do that? 

If you have previously filed for unemployment benefits and cannot log in to your UI Online account, and you need instructions to reset your password, please visit: mass.gov/how-to/reset-your-ui-online-password-as-a-claimant. If you have filed for unemployment before and you no longer have access to the phone you inputted for two-factor authentication you will need to head to mass.gov/forms/covid-19-department-of-unemployment-assistance-contact-request and request a customer service agent to reset your password.  

I was already collecting UI due to a reason unrelated to COVID-19. What do I do about work search?

You should continue to do an online work search as you are able. Many things that can be done remotely count as work search activities. For example, continue to monitor job boards and post resumes. You only need to accept suitable work, however. If you are quarantined, are self-quarantining due to a reasonable fear of exposure, or you must care for a family member who is sick, or a child who is at home, you do not need to accept work until those conditions resolve.

I completed my weekly certification for benefits and I indicated I was not able to work because I am self-quarantining. I received a “Healthcare Provider’s Statement of Capability” document in my UI Online Inbox indicating I should have this form filled out by a doctor. Does a doctor need to fill out the form?

No. If you filed your claim and indicated your separation was due to the Covid-19 emergency you do not need to provide a note from a doctor.

I was late responding to DUA questions, or late appealing a denial due to coronavirus. Am I excused?

Yes. If you or a member of your immediate family or household is ill with a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, or you have been directed to quarantine by your employer, medical professional, or health official or government authority, DUA will consider this to be good cause for not meeting the deadline, whether or not you or a member of your immediate family or household has been actually diagnosed with the coronavirus.  

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