While Massachusetts has started paying UI payments under the various enhanced unemployment programs, it is still behind in making retroactive payments. This is a known issue as their systems are having several technical glitches and struggling to handle the volume of claims. However the good news, per recent comments on this site, is that the number of new claims being processed has improved and more and more people are seeing some of the enhanced unemployment benefits. Please leave a comment with your question or experience to date.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) oversees the unemployment insurance (UI) program in Massachusetts which provides temporary income assistance to eligible worker. DUA also determines and collects employer contributions to the UI program. See further details below on the newly enhanced benefits available now and how to file a claim. And per the official state UI website, they are aware of the ongoing issues people are experiencing when filing claims.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program
The MA DUA has been approved by FEMA for the $300 weekly payment under the LWA program, which provides supplemental payments to eligible unemployment benefits claimants who have been unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance has already begun work on the technology requirements necessary for this program and anticipates being able to quickly deliver retroactive funds to eligible claimants for those weeks by Sept. 15. Eligible claimants currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action because the Commonwealth will automatically add LWA to their weekly benefit payment retroactive to the dates they are eligible.
As of September 14, the MA DUA has disbursed the 6th and final Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) $300 supplemental benefit to unemployment claimants in the Commonwealth. The limited additional weekly unemployment benefit to claimants under the federal LWA program went to all eligible claimants for the weeks ending 8/1/20 through 9/5/20. Approximately 461,000 standard unemployment insurance (UI) beneficiaries and 234,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) beneficiaries were determined eligible for LWA during that time frame. The total amount disbursed to eligible claimants was over $1.3 billion. See more detail on the MA LWA page.
All LWA-eligible unemployment claimants in both the UI and PUA programs should receive the supplemental funding by September 15th. If a claimant has questions about eligibility or their payment status they can call the Department of Unemployment Assistance call center at 877-626-6800. The call center is open from 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday, and 8 a.m–12
COVID 19 Enhanced Benefits and Payment Issues
Under the CARES act, there are three types of federal unemployment assistance now available:
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): expands eligibility for individuals who are typically ineligible for
Unemployment benefits, for example independent contractors, and self-employed and “gig” workers.
• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): provides an additional $600 per week, on top of regular benefits, to all recipients of Unemployment Insurance; retroactive to the week ending April 4, 2020.
• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): provides an additional 13 weeks of Unemployment benefits to all recipients.
Web and/or phone issues with accessing the MA Unemployment system
Due to the volume DUA is experiencing at this time the fastest way to process a claim is online, which remains fully operational. To further mitigate the spread of COVID-19 all in-person services are currently unavailable at all Career Centers and unemployment walk-in centers across Massachusetts. If you continue to have issues filing your claim please use this contact form and a DUA agent will contact you as soon as possible. In addition to staffing up the remote call center capabilities, the DUA contact center will likely be extending hours and including weekends in the near future.
[Update from DUA] If you need to speak to someone about your unemployment claim, you can call the MA DUA customer service department at (877) 626-6800. The call center is open from M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM & on Saturday 8AM-4PM. DUA reps continue to make call-backs for contact form requests. These calls are made until 8PM, 7 days a week. The number they will call from is 617-626-6800 – if you receive a call from that number after hours it is a DUA rep. [Other numbers could be a scam – so be careful with giving out your personal information]
Eligibility for standard Unemployment Insurance claimants who have exhausted benefits
- Claimants who have exhausted their claim with a benefit year end date on or after 7/6/2019 are potentially eligible for PEUC.
- PEUC offers an additional 13 weeks of benefits to individuals at their former weekly benefit amount, plus dependents, if applicable.
- Eligible claimant will also receive the weekly FPUC ($600) up until the week ending 7/25/2020.
- The first week a claimant can be eligible for PEUC is the week beginning 3/29/2020 and the last payable week is the week ending 12/26/2020. If you have already been claiming extended benefits through the PUA system you will not be eligible for those weeks you claimed in PUA through PEUC.
- If the UI claim has expired, a claimant must file a new regular UI claim prior to filing for PEUC.
- If the claimant is monetarily eligible on the new UI claim, regardless of the benefit rate amount, the claimant will receive benefits from the new claim.
- If the claimant is not monetarily eligible on the new claim, the claimant will be eligible for PEUC on the prior claim and UI Online will automatically implement that.
- If a claimant has been receiving regular UI benefits and those benefits are exhausted, PEUC will automatically begin, and the claimant does not have to take any further action.
- Claimants who were receiving RED (Section 30) benefits will be automatically transferred to receive PEUC benefits.
- PEUC is 100% federally funded. PEUC payments are subject to state and federal taxes and the claimant’s tax withholding preference will be applied.
- PEUC payments will be offset by 50% to recover any overpayments.
Claimants who have exhausted their regular UI and filed for PUA prior to PEUC implementation
- Claimants who had been receiving PUA benefits will need to reopen their exhausted UI claim.
- They will follow the same reopen procedures, however, an issue will be set up and automatically disqualify claimants for any week in which they have received PUA benefits.
- The claimant’s PEUC weeks will start once the PUA weeks have ended, and the claimant will still be entitled to 13 weeks of PEUC.
- If a claimant’s PUA benefit rate was lower than their regular UI benefit rate, they cannot receive the difference through PEUC. PUA and PEUC are two completely separate programs.
- Claimants should immediately stop certifying for benefits through PUA and start requesting benefits on the regular UI claim
See more information and FAQs here.
Filing a Claim
- PEUC benefits are now available through the standard Unemployment Insurance program in Massachusetts and can be accessed at UI online.
- If you had exhausted your regular UI benefit but were receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance you must now head to UI Online to apply and claim your weekly benefits.
If there is a problem with your claim that must be resolved before benefits can be paid, or if you have been denied benefits and are appealing the determination, you must still certify for and claim your benefits. You will receive “credit” for the weeks which you have claimed. If it is determined that you are eligible or if you win your appeal, you will be paid these benefits at a later date. If you have not claimed benefits and you win your appeal, you will not be paid for these weeks.
You will need the following information to apply:
- Social Security Number.
- Alien Registration Number (if you are not a US citizen).
- Pension information (if you are receiving any pension or 401k).
- Amount and duration of any separation pay you may be receiving.
- Recall date (if you expect to be recalled to your job).
- Union hiring hall information, including local number and address (if you get work through a union).
- Military Form DD-214 (if you were in the military in the last 18 months).
- Form SF-8 or SF-50 (if you were a federal employee).
This article was updated on September 14