This article was last updated on January 9
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.
2021 Unemployment Program Extensions Under COVID Relief Bill
The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package was passed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, which among several other pandemic relief measures extends and provides additional federal funding for enhanced unemployment benefits. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and a reinstatement, but halving of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program which provides a $300 supplemental weekly unemployment payment.
These programs have been funded and extended for 11 weeks (on top of any state funded extensions), covering the weeks of December 26th, 2020 to March 14th, 2021. While the bill was only signed on 12/27 and there have been some reports that the claimants may lose one week of benefits (since funding for all these programs ended on December 26th) the Department of Labor has confirmed an added $300 per week FPUC will be available starting the week ending 1/2/21, so eligible claimants will receive the full 11 weeks of payments (a total of $3,300). To receive FPUC benefits, you must be receiving UI, PEUC, EB, or PUA.
[December 30th update] The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is rolling out changes to the extended enhanced UI programs. Payment schedule and updates are as follows:
- As of January 6, 2021, DUA has implemented FPUC for UI claimants. The additional $300 was added to weekly benefit payments for the week ending January 2, 2021.
- PUA claimants will receive their FPUC payments beginning Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Additional/new requirements
- DUA has implemented the extended PUA program and payments after the week ending December 26, 2020 will be paid beginning on Monday, January 11, 2020. Claimants should continue to file weekly claim certifications as scheduled.
- Will provide additional weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 50 weeks.
- New Claimants filing after January 31, 2021 will be required to provide documentation of employment, self-employment, or a qualifying job offer within 21 days of filing. Claimants with established claims receiving payments in 2021 will have 90 days to provide such documentation.
- PUA will be available until at least week ending March 13, 2021. Some claimants may be able to claim additional weeks of benefits through week ending April 10, 2021, if they have not reached the maximum number of week.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
- DUA has implemented the extended PEUC program. Eligible claimants will receive payment for the week ending January 2, 2021.
- Will provide 11 additional weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 24 weeks.
- PEUC will be available until at least week ending March 13, 2021. Some claimants may be able to claim additional weeks of benefits through week ending April 10, 2021, if they have not reached the maximum number of weeks.
High Unemployment Period Extended Benefits (HUP EB)
- Will remain active due to continued federal funding until conditions for the 20-week entitlement “trigger off” or until week ending March 13, 2021.
UI claimants with existing or expired claim balances should be aware of the following general guidelines:
- PUA and PEUC, FPUC will be automatically added to the claimants’ benefits if they are eligible for the weeks outlined in the new legislation.
- Claimants with weeks remaining in UI should continue to file weekly claims
- Claimants who will have additional weeks in UI and PUA or PEUC due to state provisions (where applicable) should watch their state agency UI portal or website for updates that will allow additional weeks to be filed.
- Claimants will be retroactively caught up on payments for all weeks they are eligible.
- Claimants currently receiving benefits through the Extended Benefits program must finish all weeks of EB before receiving additional weeks of PEUC.
I will post additional updates as they are released in coming days. So stay tuned for updates.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program Now Completed
The MA DUA has completed payments under the $300 weekly 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. No retroactive payments will be made as funding for program has run out.
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).