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The CARES Act and Unemployment – Help when COVID-19 stops you from working

Produced by Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed May 29, 2020

On March 27 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law

This latest response to the corona virus adds:

  1. $600 to the amount of Unemployment Insurance (UI) you get every week between March 29th and July 25th 2020.
  2. 13 more weeks of federal UI benefits to the number of weeks you can already get in state UI. This 13-week extension is called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). 
  3. Another 13 weeks of federal benefits after PEUC runs out. These benefits are called Extended Benefits or EB. Extended benefits have been "triggered" because of the high unemployment rate. Massachusetts has not yet made EB available.
  4. A new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for workers who do not normally qualify for regular Unemployment Insurance.

Flow chart from Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance to help you figure out where to start.

How do these changes help me and what do I have to do?

If you get Unemployment Insurance now

You do not have to do anything different. Just keep recertifying. Every week you were unemployed since March 29, you should get an extra $600/week until July 25th.

When you were approved for UI, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) also approved a number of weeks for you to get UI. Once that number of weeks passes, you should get 13 more weeks automatically from the federal PEUC program. 

If you had to stop working because of COVID-19

Apply for Unemployment Insurance right away.

Do I apply for Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is the program for Massachusetts regular employees who lost their jobs before COVID-19. If you are a regular employee and you lost your job due to COVID-19 apply to this program. "Regular employees" have taxes withheld from their pay and get a W-2 form. Once your state checks run out, you can also get 13 weeks of federal extended UI benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC for any claim you applied for after July 7, 2018. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a temporary unemployment insurance program. Congress created this program to help workers who are not eligible for "regular unemployment insurance."

Apply for regular unemployment insurance if

  1. You were earning $5,100 or more from an employer in the last 4 completed calendar quarters (approximately the past year), and
  2. Your employer was withholding taxes from your paycheck or gave you a W-2 form for your taxes, and
  • Your loss of income is due to COVID-19, or
  • Apart from COVID-19, you were laid off, quit for good cause or had urgent, personal reasons for leaving your job

You cannot get regular UI if:

  • You can work from home and get paid,
  • You are getting paid leave from your employer, or
  • You are not a citizen and you do not have work authorization


Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if

You lost income due to COVID-19 and

  • You do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance because of the kind of work you do. Or
  • You cannot get regular UI because:
    • You already used up your regular UI and the 13 week PEUC extension.
    • You used to get regular UI benefits but your “benefit year” ended after July 5, 2019.
    • Before you left work due to COVID-19, you were disqualified from regular UI when you lost your prior job and now you cannot get the 8 weeks of work you need to qualify for UI again. Or
    • You did not earn enough or work long enough (generally at least 15 weeks) to get regular UI

You cannot get PUA if:

  • You can work from home and get paid.
  • You are getting paid sick leave from your employer.
  • You are not a citizen and you do not have a United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued Alien Registration number (A number).
  • You are eligible for regular UI but you did not apply and get denied for it.


Created June 1, 2020

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