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UPDATE: Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance Announces Guidance On CARES Act Implementation

The Department of Unemployment Assistance is moving swiftly to implement three new public benefit programs that will expand unemployment eligibility; temporarily increase weekly benefits for all claimants; and allow additional categories of people to claim unemployment benefits. The move, the largest expansion of assistance for the Commonwealth’s workforce since the Great Depression, follows new guidance from the federal government regarding the CARES Act.

Table of Contents

CARES Act

CARES Act flowchart

Additional Resources

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 the week beginning March 29, 2020 -April 4th 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.

Next Steps For Claimants: 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, which can be done at mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PUA provides 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 are not able to claim benefits directly through the UI Online System in Massachusetts. 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 visit our Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) page to apply.

PUA checklist

Additional Resources

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.

Individuals who have exhausted their UI benefits on or after July 6, 2019 may receive PEUC.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions and answers explain the most important changes the CARES Act makes to UI and their impacts on Massachusetts workers and employers:

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) FAQs

Please visit our page for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Frequently Asked Questions for further information.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) FAQs

I understand that the CARES Act will provide an emergency increase in unemployment benefits of $600 per week. Is that correct? 

Recipients of regular unemployment benefits, Extended Benefits (EB), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) will be eligible to receive an additional $600 per week in Federal Pandemic Emergency Compensation (FPUC). 

Will a unemployment benefits recipient who receives Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) get one payment per week or two? 

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) can be paid with unemployment benefits or separately, so long as both are paid weekly. 

What weeks will Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) cover? 

Federal Pandemic Emergency Compensation (FPUC) will apply to benefit weeks beginning March 29, 2020 and ending on or before July 31, 2020. 

What penalties can an individual incur for receiving improper payments of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)? 

An individual receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) as a result of intentionally providing information that the individual knows or should have known was false will be ineligible for future FPUC  and subject to prosecution. The individual will also need to repay the amount received with interest and penalties.  

An individual receiving an overpayment by unintentionally supplying incorrect information will also need to repay the overpayment. 

Will receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) make me ineligible for other programs? 

The additional $600 per week benefit will count as income when determining eligibility for means-tested programs, except for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

Would being in Section 30 make you ineligible for the $600?

Section 30 is a state program that allows certain regular unemployment claimants to receive training while unemployed. Section 30 has two components. For those who have not exhausted their regular UI benefits, it relieves those individuals of their obligation to look for work. It otherwise does not change their right to regular UI, so those people will see the $600 in their weekly benefit amount.

The second component of the Section 30 training program allows claimants to get extended benefits after their regular UI benefits have run out. State programs like that are defined as “Additional benefits” and FPUC is not payable to individuals who are receiving Additional Benefits. Only those who are receiving Section 30’s extended benefits will not get the extra $600.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) FAQs

Can I qualify for benefits under the CARES Act if my benefit year has expired or I have exhausted my benefits in my current benefit year? 

Individuals whose benefit year has expired or who have exhausted all rights to benefits under state or federal law in their current benefit year may qualify for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). PEUC is a 13 week extension of regular unemployment benefits.

What are the eligibility requirements for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)? 

There are four major requirements:  

  1. the benefit year of the individual’s claim for regular UI must have expired after July 1, 2019. 
  2. the individual seeking Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) cannot otherwise have rights to benefits under state or federal law.  
  3. the individual cannot be receiving benefits from Canada.  
  4. the individual must be able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work, except that a state shall apply flexibility in meeting work search requirements for individuals unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction. 

How much is the weekly benefit amount for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)? 

The weekly benefit amount will be the same as the weekly benefit amount payable to the individual during the individual’s benefit year, including dependency allowances, plus the $600 FPUC weekly benefit. Again, the $600 FPUC weekly benefit is available only for the period March 29-July 31, 2020.  

What is the maximum number of weeks an individual can receive Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)? 

An individual will be able to receive Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) for up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits. The extension ends December 31, 2020, unless extended further by the federal government. 

What penalties can an individual incur for receiving improper payments of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)? 

An individual receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) as a result of intentionally providing information that the individual knows or should have known was false, will be ineligible for future PEUC and subject to prosecution. The individual will also need to repay the amount received with interest and penalties.  

An individual receiving an overpayment by unintentionally supplying incorrect information will also need to repay the overpayment. But, no interest and penalties will be charged and the individual may be able to obtain a waiver if repayment “would be contrary to equity and good conscience.”

I have been claiming benefits through the PUA system for an exhausted claim. How do I continue to claim weekly benefits? 

Claimants will need to reopen their exhausted claim through the UI Online system.

My claim has exhausted and I did not open a claim in the PUA system. What should I do to collect Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)? 

Claimants will need to reopen their exhausted claim through the UI Online system.

My claim will exhaust soon. What will I need to do to collect the extra 13 weeks available through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)?

Claimants who are currently benefits will not need to do anything. The extra 13 weeks will be added to the existing claim.

Other FAQs

How will Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) be funded? 

All benefits and administrative expenses of these programs will be 100% federally funded, so they will be paid for without additional contributions from employers who pay into the unemployment insurance fund. 

What funding does the CARES Act provide for short-time compensation programs, also known as Work Share?

100% federal funding will be provided for short-time compensation paid to an individual up to 26 times the weekly benefit amount, including dependents’ allowances, for weeks of unemployment beginning on or after the date of enactment of CARES and ending on or before 12/31/20. However, this provision will not apply to short-time compensation paid to employees hired on a seasonal, temporary, or intermittent basis.  

Does the CARES Act provide any unemployment relief for governmental entities and non-profit organizations that ordinarily pay the full amount of benefits awarded to former employees? 

50% federal funding will be provided for benefits paid by reimbursable nonprofit and governmental entities for weeks of unemployment ending between 3/13/20 and 12/31/20. In addition, USDOL will work with states to allow flexible interpretations of provisions of state law relating to timely payment and assessment of penalties and interest.

Contact

Phone

Call Center (877) 626-6800

Open 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday, 8 a.m–12 p.m. Saturday. Multilingual call agents are available.

Online

To access PUA application online: Log in as a claimant 
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