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Legislative changes related to COVID-19

Guidance and information related to unemployment assistance and COVID-19.

Table of Contents

Bills

S.2599

S.2599 was signed by Governor Charlie Baker on March 18, 2020. The bill waives the 1-week waiting period for individuals claiming UI benefits who were separated from work as a result of circumstances related to or resulting from COVID-19 or the governor’s March 10, 2020 state of emergency declaration. This bill will expire 90 days after termination of the state of emergency declaration. The waiting week is waived effective March 10, 2020.

S.2599 became St. 2020, c. 40.  https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2599

S.2618-A

S.2618-A was signed by Governor Charlie Baker on May 26, 2020. The bill 1) temporarily removes the limit on dependency allowances, which previously were capped at 50% of the individual’s weekly benefit amount; 2) states that if during the benefit year the number of initial claims filed in any week exceeds 100,000, the total benefits an individual can collect in a year cannot be decreased from 30 to 26, unless the federal government has authorized a period of extended benefits; 3) prevents contributory employer charging and experience rate increases for claims by individuals separated from employment as a result of COVID-19, charging these benefits to the solvency account if not paid for by federal funds (effective 3/10/2020; sunsets 1 year from the effective date of the act or 180 days after termination of the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, whichever is later); 4) if benefits for individuals separated from employment as a result of COVID-19 are paid by the federal government, they are not charged to reimbursable and governmental employers (effective 3/10/2020; sunsets 1 year from the effective date of the act or 180 days after termination of the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, whichever is later); 5) non-profit organizations are given an extra 120 days to make payments or contributions without penalties or interest.

S.2618-A became St. 2020, c. 81. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2618

S.2934

S.2934 was signed by Governor Charlie Baker on October 26, 2020. The bill provided additional unemployment benefits for individuals who were excluded from the Lost Wages Assistance program. From the week ending August 1, 2020 to the week ending September 5, 2020, any individual receiving unemployment benefits of less than $100 a week including the dependency allowance are deemed eligible to receive a weekly benefit amount of $100 per week. The intent is that these individuals will then be eligible for federal Lost Wage Assistance (LWA). The secretary of labor and workforce development is required to file a report with state legislators and committees on the number of individuals affected by this bill and the amount of additional federal LWA funds received.

S.2934 became St. 2020, c. 197. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2934

H.5102

H.5102 was signed in part by Governor Charlie Baker on November 10, 2020 (the Governor made an amendment to an unrelated part of the bill). Beginning March 18, 2020, the bill adds an alternate trigger for extended benefits (EB) authorized by the federal government, and adds and defines a high unemployment period (HUP).

EB will trigger “on” if a) USDOL’s average total rate of unemployment, seasonally adjusted, for the three most recent months is 6.5 percent or higher, and b) the average rate of total unemployment in Massachusetts, seasonally adjusted, as determined by USDOL, for the three most recent months is 110 percent or more of the average rate for either of the corresponding 3-month periods in the preceding two years. EB will trigger “off” beginning November 29, 2020, unless prior to that date there is an extension of 100 percent federal sharing under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or any amendment to that Act, or any other federal law that extends 100 percent federal sharing.

If the average total unemployment rate is 8 percent or more, the state triggers “on” to a high unemployment period (HUP-EB). In a period of HUP, claimants can receive up to 7 additional weeks of EB, for a total of 20 weeks of EB. HUP-EB will trigger “off” beginning November 29, 2020, unless prior to that date there is an extension of 100 percent federal sharing under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or any amendment to that Act, or any other federal law that extends 100 percent federal sharing.

H. 5102 became St. 2020, c. 201, § 8. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H5102

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