Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Notice

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COVID-19 and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

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

The CARES Act expanded Unemployment benefits so more workers can get help during the COVID-19 emergency.

Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, (PUA) if you had to stop working because of COVID-19 and:

  • You used up all your state and federal UI benefits. Or
  • Your “benefit year” ended sometime after July 5, 2019. This means you claimed Unemployment any time after July 6, 2018. The benefit year is the 52 weeks after you file a claim for Unemployment benefits and you used up all your benefits during your benefit year.
  • You are totally or partly unemployed or you do not have as much work as you did and you are:
    • Self-employed in your own business or on a farm.
    • An independent contractor and you can show reportable income.
    • A "gig worker" and you can show reportable income.
    • Clergy or working for a religious organization.
    • Only looking for part-time work.
    • A full-time student who worked part-time. This includes full-time high school students who worked part-time. Although the term 'part-time student' does not appear in the application, you are eligible. Include yourself as someone whose job ended or whose hours were reduced.
    • An Americorps or Peace Corps worker and your placement site closed and you lost income
    • Or
    • A full-time student who worked part-time.

    Or

  • The Department of Unemployment Assistance denied your application for regular UI because:
    1. You had "insufficient wages." They might use this reason to deny your application because:
      • You did not earn at least $5,100 in the prior year, so they said you are “monetarily ineligible." There is no minimum earning requirement to get PUA.
      • Your earnings were in the wrong months of the year before you applied for UI so DUA said you are “monetarily ineligible."
      • You did not work enough weeks last year to qualify for regular (UI). Before the CARES Act, you needed about 15 weeks of work to qualify.
    2. You left a prior job where you worked before the job that ended due to COVID-19 for a reason that DUA said disqualified you for UI.
      Usually, you need to “serve” a disqualification by working for 8 weeks. Now, the disqualification will be “served” if you get PUA for 8 weeks, and at that point you may need to collect regular UI if you hadn’t used up all your weeks.
    3. The disqualification that allows you to get PUA includes a prior fraud disqualification that you got when you were getting regular UI that happened before your COVID-19 related unemployment .

COVID-19 related reasons for stopping work

The PUA application asks if you are not working because:

  • You were diagnosed with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) or you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • A member of your household was diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You were providing care for a family or household member who was diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • A child or other person you are the main care-giver for cannot attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19.
  • You have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You cannot reach your place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You cannot reach your place of employment because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.
  • You are self-employed or an independent contractor and COVID-19 has severely limited your ability to perform your normal work.
  • You do not have a recent history of full-time work and you were scheduled to start a job with a new employer. You cannot start that job or the offer was withdrawn as a result of COVID-19.
  • Your place of employment closed because of COVID-19.
  • You quit your job, you were laid off or your hours were reduced because of COVID-19.

If you cannot work for one of the above reasons and then you have a new reason, as long as it is listed, you can continue to get PUA.

You cannot get PUA if

  • You can telework full-time with pay. But if your hours are reduced, you may be able to get some PUA.
  • You can telework full-time with pay. But if you cannot telework because of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking, you can get PUA.
  • You are getting paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits for the same hours you usually worked. But, if your paid leave is based on hours that were reduced because of COVID-19, you may be able to get some PUA. See How much PUA can I get?
  • You quit a job that offers paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits.
  • You are not a US citizen and
    • you do not both a valid Social Security Number, and
    • an identification number (“A number”) issued by the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) and the “A” number indicates that you have work authorization.
  • You were not impacted by COVID-19 and you quit work just to collect PUA. This is fraud.

How much PUA can I get?

  1. If did not earn anything after you stopped work, you will get at least $267/ week PUA immediately. The most you can get is $823/week.
    The amount you get depends on your earnings in 2019. If you earn more than $89/week while collecting the $267, DUA subtracts every dollar over $89 that you earned, from the $267 minimum PUA benefit. While you are receiving PUA in any week that you earn $356 ($267 + $89) or more, you will not get any PUA for that week, including no additional $600.
  2. Everyone who gets any Unemployment Insurance, gets $600/week plus your PUA benefit. So, for every week you cannot work between March 29 and July 25, 2020 you get at least $267 plus $600 for a total of $867/week.
  3. You also get:
    $25/week for each child for whom you provide more than 50% support, who is
    • under 18,
    • under 24 and a full-time student, or
    • cannot work because of mental or physical disabilities. There is no age limit.

    But there is a limit on the weekly amount you can get for your children. You can only get $25/week per child up to 50% of your weekly unemployment benefit. This $25/week is a "dependency allowance."

DUA adds the dependency allowance to your benefit after they verify the information about your children.

When you first apply for PUA, until DUA can verify your income, you will get:

  • $600/week for the weeks you did not work between 3/29/2020 and 7/25/2020 and
  • the minimum $267/week. 

After DUA verifies your earnings from 2019, you may get more than $267 up to $823. If that is the case, you will be able to earn up to 1/3 of the higher amount before DUA subtracts these earnings from your benefit.

Important

If you get PUA benefits by mistake, you must pay it all back.  The PUA benefit overpayment cannot be waived.

When can I start getting PUA benefits?

You should expect to get your first PUA benefit payment within the first week of when you apply.

Any weeks you did not work full-time because of COVID-19, between February 2, and December 26, 2020, you qualify for PUA benefits.

You can get PUA benefits back to February 2, 2020.

You can get the extra $600/week back to March 29, 2020.

Note

Right now, DUA's system can only pay benefits back to March 8, 2020. Later, you will be able to show DUA proof that you were not working before March 8. Then, you can ask them to give you the benefits they owe you. DUA will give you benefits back to the date you stopped working, on or after February 2, 2020. The PUA application asks, "When were you impacted by COVID-19?” Put the date you had to stop working in this box.

How many weeks of PUA benefits can I get?

Right now, the maximum number of weeks you can get any Unemployment benefits is 39 plus any weeks you get PEUC.

New acts of Congress or unusually high numbers of people out of work will trigger the UI system to extend the number of weeks you can get Unemployment Insurance.

How do I apply for PUA?

Apply for PUA:

  • online in English Mass.gov/pua and Spanish, or
  • over the phone. 877-626-6800(now in English only).

Before you apply, collect all the information they will ask for. You need:

  • The date you had to stop working - they ask when COVID-19 first "impacted" you. You can get benefits payments back to the first date you were “impacted” by COVID-19 starting on or after Feb 2, 2020 so this date is important.
  • Your social security number,
  • If you are not a citizen of the United States, the number the immigration service gave you. The application will ask you for your “UICIS issued identification number.” After you provide this number, you will be asked to provide a document that shows you have work authorization.
  • Your home address,
  • Your mailing address, if different from your home address,
  • Your telephone number,
  • Your email address,
  • Your birth date,
  • Your wage records for 2019, which includes:
    • 1099 forms,
    • Pay stubs,
    • Bank statements or receipts,
    • If you have it, your 2019 tax return,
    • Ledgers, contracts, invoices and billing statements,
    • If you are self-employed, your net income. This is your gross income minus business expenses.
  • The social security numbers and dates of birth for your dependent
  • children
  • If you want your PUA payments deposited into your bank account, you need your bank account and routing numbers.

What Do I Need to Do to Keep Getting PUA Benefits?

You need to certify weekly that you continue to be unable to work as a direct result of the impact of COVID-19.

You must certify in English online.

There is currently no multilingual telephone access.

Are there are federal benefits available and how do I apply for them?

Yes, there are now 2 separate 13-week extra federal benefits for people who have used up their state unemployment benefits. These are PEUC and EB. PEUC is available through UI online. EB is not yet available.

Important

If you apply online, you must complete your application all at once. You cannot save it and return later. The session will time out and you will have to start all over again. So collect all your information before you start the application. If you are stopped from continuing the application, be sure and call DUA at 877-626-6800 to see if this is a mistake.

Non-citizens

If you are a non-citizen, you can apply for UI. You must have:

  • a valid Social Security number, and
  • an A-number (Alien Registration Number)  issued by the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS). You can apply for PUA. You will need to document your work authorization with an additional document.

Getting UI or PUA does not count as a public charge. It does not affect your immigration status.

Why could I not complete the PUA Application if I have not lived or worked in Massachusetts in 2019?

You are eligible for PUA if you were impacted by COVID-19 in 2020. The PUA application wrongly blocked individuals from continuing your application if you did not work or reside in Massachusetts in 2019. DUA is in has fixed this problem and you can now apply.

Why have I received a notice that I am not monetarily eligible for PUA?

This decision is wrong and DUA is in the process of fixing this problem. You will get a new decision and back benefits in a few weeks.

Reminder - Save your time off!

If you are getting paid sick leave, you cannot get PUA at the same time.

But you do not need to use up all your unpaid sick time, vacation time, personal time, before you collect PUA.

Remember to apply for other benefits too

See:

SNAP Food Assistance - Workers who lost hours or job due to COVID-19

COVID-19 and MassHealth and Health Insurance

More information

See the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance webpages COVID-19 unemployment information . If you have trouble completing your UI application online or you have questions about the status of your application, call 877-626-6800 or use the DUA Unemployment contact form.

For information specifically about PUA go to www.mass.gov/pua where you can get the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Guidebook, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Eligibility Checklist, and other information. You can also get the guide book in:

However, for now, the PUA application is in English only and you can only certify weekly that you are eligible to continue getting PUA in English only. A Spanish video takes you through the English application but does not provide information on how to certify weekly.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

DUA hosts "Apply for UI" virtual townhalls daily

DUA takes you through a step by step process to achieve a successful unemployment claim.  And you can ask questions.

  • Participate:
  • Sign up
  • Townhall meetings are scheduled:
    • Tuesday, June 2 at 2:30 p.m.
    • Wednesday, June 3 at 2:30 p.m. (in Spanish)
    • Thursday, June 4 at 2:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, June 6 at 2:30 p.m.

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