What is Unemployment Insurance?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Unemployment Insurance benefits are cash payments for workers who have lost their jobs. Unemployment benefits can also include health insurance and job training, while you look for a new job. Not everyone can collect unemployment benefits, but many workers can. If you lose your job, you may be able to get unemployment benefits while you look for a new job.

In Massachusetts, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) runs the Unemployment Insurance (Unemployment Insurance) Program. Each year, employers pay taxes based on the number their ex-employees who collect Unemployment Insurance. This tax pays for the Unemployment Insurance program.

When you lose your job and it's not your fault, the DUA may pay you Unemployment Insurance benefits. If the DUA decides to give you Unemployment Insurance, you will be paid every week until you find a job, for up to 30 weeks.

Federal extensions

If the US government grants a federal extension, you may only be able to get unemployment for up to 26 weeks.

Sometimes the economy gets so bad that many people cannot find work. The government recognizes that it is harder than usual for most people to find work. So, the US government grants “federal extensions” of Unemployment Insurance benefits. The US government pays for these extensions.

When the US government decides to grant Federal extensions, Massachusetts pays benefits for the first 26 weeks. After that, benefits are funded by the money from the US government.

But because the US government’s rules about who can get Unemployment Insurance are stricter than Massachusetts rules,you may only be able to get up to 26 weeks of unemployment from Massachusetts.

What are Unemployment Insurance benefits?

Unemployment Insurance benefits include:

  • cash payments,
  • extended cash benefits while in job training, and
  • help with health insurance.

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) makes these payments each week for up to 30 weeks.

The idea behind unemployment insurance making cash payments is to help you pay your bills while you look for a new job. The DUA looks at how much to pay you based on how much you earned for about one year before you stopped working. It uses this information to decide how much money to give you in unemployment payments.

If you go to a skills training programto help you get a new job, DUA may pay you for as much as 26 more weeks. The training program has to be approved by the DUA. To contact the DUA for more information about training, call 617-626-6800 or 877-626-6800, or visit the DUA training website.

The DUA used to have a health insurance program called the Medical Security Program (MSP). MSP ended on December 31, 2013. If you got MSP, it is important to apply for a new health insurance plan and pay your first premium before June 30, 2014 to avoid a break in coverage. Visit the Mass Health Connector or call 1-877 MA ENROLL (1-877-623-6765). You can also call Health Care for All’s free Helpline, 1-800-272-4232. See DUA’s brochure on the health care transition for more information or visit the DUA Help with Health Insurance webpage.

How much money can I get?

Usually, you can get about half of what you earned every week when you were working. The most you can get is $674 per week. This amount changes on October 1st of each year.

If you have children, and you provide more than 50% of their support, you may also get up to $25 per week for each child in your family who is

  • under the age of 18, or
  • under 24 and  a full-time student, or
  • cannot work because of mental or physical disabilities (there is no age limit).

What other benefits can I get?

Extended Unemployment Training Benefits (Section 30 Benefits)

You can also get up to 26 extra weeks of Unemployment Insurance benefits while you attend a job training program. The training program must be approved by DUA. This is sometimes called a “Section 30” or Training Opportunity Program (TOP).

You must be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits to get into a Section 30 training program. As long as you are getting either Federal or Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance benefits you can apply for Section 30 Training.

Help with paying for training

Sometimes you can get federal funding for job training through your local One Stop Career Center. You need to go to the One Stop Career Center to find out about these funds. Go online to find training programs near you.

Help with paying for college (Pell Grants)

You may be able to get a Pell Grant to help pay for college. As of June 2010, unemployed workers may get special help with Pell Grants. The US government provides information about Pell Grants and other financial aid programs.

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated December 2013

Take the quiz!

Jorge
1.Where did DUA get the money to pay Jorge?
Jorge got an unemployment check this week from the DUA. Where did DUA get the money to pay Jorge?
answer type: 
Incorrect
from the state sales tax
answer type: 
Correct
from a tax that employers pay
answer type: 
Incorrect
from traffic tickets and fines
answer type: 
Incorrect
from state licensing fees
Correct! Employers pay taxes to support the Unemployment Insurance program. Some of the money also comes from the US government.
Sorry, the correct answer is 'B. from a tax that employers pay'. Explanation: Employers pay taxes to support the Unemployment Insurance program. Some of the money also comes from the US government.
2.How often should Jorge expect to get unemployment checks?
While Jorge is looking for a new job, how often should he expect to get an unemployment check?
answer type: 
Incorrect
every month
answer type: 
Incorrect
every two weeks
answer type: 
Correct
every week
answer type: 
Incorrect
twice a month
Correct! If the DUA decides to give you unemployment insurance, you will be paid every week.
Sorry, the correct answer is 'C. every week'. Explanation: If the DUA decides to give you unemployment insurance, you will be paid every week.
3.How much money can Jorge expect to get from unemployment?
At his old job, Jorge made $400 a week. About how much money can he expect to get from unemployment?
answer type: 
Correct
$100
$200
$300
$400
Correct! Unemployment benefits are about half of what you earned every week when you were working. Since Jorge earned $400 a week before he lost his job, he can expect to get about half of that amount in his unemployment check: $200.
Sorry, the correct answer is 'B. $200'. Explanation: Unemployment benefits are about half of what you earned every week when you were working. Since Jorge earned $400 a week before he lost his job, he can expect to get about half of that amount in his unemployment check: $200.
4.How long can Jorge keep collecting unemployment benefits?
If Jorge cannot find a new job, how long can he keep collecting unemployment benefits?
answer type: 
Incorrect
30 days
answer type: 
Incorrect
300 days
answer type: 
Correct
30 weeks
answer type: 
Incorrect
30 months
Correct! DUA will send Jorge a check every week until he finds a job or until 30 weeks have passed. But, if the US government decides to add more time to this 30 week period, Jorge may be able to collect for longer than 30 weeks.
Sorry, the correct answer is '30 weeks'. DUA will send Jorge a check every week until he finds a job or until 30 weeks have passed. But, if the US government decides to add more time to this 30 week period, Jorge may be able to collect for longer than 30 weeks.
5.How much extra money can Jorge get?
Jorge’s wife stopped working when their daughter was born five years ago. They also have a 19 year old son who is a full time college student. Jorge can probably get a little extra money in his unemployment check because of his family situation. How much?
answer type: 
Incorrect
up to $25
answer type: 
Correct
up to $50
answer type: 
Incorrect
up to $75
answer type: 
Incorrect
up to $100
Correct! If you have children, and you provide more than 50% of their support, you may also get up to $25 per week for each child in your family who is under 18. This is also true if you have children who are under 24 and full-time students. Since Jorge’s
Sorry, the correct answer is 'B. up to $50'. Explanation: If you have children, and you provide more than 50% of their support, you may also get up to $25 per week for each child in your family who is under 18. This is also true if you have children who are under 24 and full-time students. Since Jorge’s wife does not work, Jorge is providing 100% of the children’s support. His daughter is under 18, and his son is under 24 and a full time student. Jorge may get up to $50 ($25 for his daughter and $25 for his son).
6.What will happen to Jorge’s unemployment benefits?
Jorge would like to get a job as an auto mechanic, but he needs some more training. Ten weeks after he lost his job, he enrolled in a “section 30” mechanics training program. What will happen to Jorge’s unemployment benefits if he is still taking the training 30 weeks after he lost his job?
answer type: 
Correct
He will keep getting unemployment checks while he is still in the training program (for up to 26 more weeks).
answer type: 
Incorrect
His unemployment benefits will end, but he can continue to attend the job training program.
answer type: 
Incorrect
His unemployment benefits will end, and he can no longer attend the job training program.
answer type: 
Incorrect
He will keep getting unemployment checks for as long as he is still a student in the job training program.
Correct! Jorge can get up to 26 extra weeks of Unemployment Insurance benefits while he attends a “Section 30” job training program.
Sorry, the correct answer is 'A. He will keep getting unemployment checks while he is still in the training program (for up to 26 more weeks).' Explanation: Jorge can get up to 26 extra weeks of Unemployment Insurance benefits while he attends a “Section 30” job training program.

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