Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Notice

COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits

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

If you had to leave work because of COVID-19 you should be able to get Unemployment Insurance.

If your hours were cut because of COVID-19, you may be able to get some Unemployment Insurance.

Keep in mind

If you get any UI at all, you will also get $600 for every week you could not work between March 29 and July 25.

You will get 13 more weeks of federal UI added to the number of weeks you already get state Unemployment Insurance.

COVID-19 related reasons for stopping work

You may qualify for regular Unemployment Insurance if you are not working because:

  • You were diagnosed with COVID-19 or you have symptoms.
  • A member of your household was diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are caring for a family or household member who tested positive or was diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You have primary responsibility for a child whose school or child care is closed and you need to care for them.
  •  You have primary responsibility for a member of your household who needs care.
  • Your employer, or a government order told you to "self-quarantine."
  • You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.
  • Your immune system is compromised due to a serious health condition.
  • You have a reasonable belief that because of COVID-19 going to work could harm your health.
  • You were scheduled to start work but you no longer have that job or you cannot go to work due to COVID-19.
  • The head of your household died from the corona virus so now the whole household depends on you for support.
  • Your place of work closed or reduced your hours  because of COVID-19.
  • You had to quit your job because you tested positive for COVID-19 or you came into contact with someone who tested positive.

How much money do I need to have earned to qualify for UI?

You need to have earned $5,100 in the past year.

You cannot get regular UI if

  • You can telework full-time with pay. But if your hours are reduced, you may be able to get some UI.
  • 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 UI. See How much UI 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 have a valid Social Security Number and work authorization.
  • You quit work just to collect UI. This is UI fraud.

How much UI can I get?

  1. Everyone who gets any state or federal UI can get an extra $600/week week from March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020. This means if you only get $1.00, you still get the extra $600/week. This $600/week is in addition to any state or federal UI you get in these 4 months. If you are doing workshare you will get the $600/week. Your employer applies for work share so that you work less hours and get UI to cover the days you do not work If you get UI now because you are in a Training Program you will not get the extra $600/week.
  2. The UI you get is:
    About half the amount you earned every week when you were working. The most you can get is $823/week.
    Plus:
    $25/week for each child for whom you provide more than 50% support, and 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.

Part-time work

If you work part-time while you are getting UI, you can still get partial UI benefits.

You can earn up to 1/3 of your benefit and your benefit will stay the same as if you were not working.

Wages you earn over 1/3 of your benefit are deducted from your UI check. These wages are your "earnings disregard." You cannot earn more than your Unemployment benefit and still get Unemployment.

For example

If your regular UI benefit is $300/week:

  • You can earn $100 weekly and you will not lose any of your regular UI benefit.
  • Once you earn more than $100, the UI benefit you get goes down with each dollar over $100 that you earn.

As long as you get UI and you earn less than your benefit amount, you will get $600/week. Even if you only get $1.00 of partial UI, you still get the extra $600 between 3/29/2020 and 7/25/2020.

How many weeks of UI benefits can I get?

Right now, the maximum number of weeks you can get Unemployment is up to 26 weeks regular benefits, plus 13 weeks of the PEUC federal extension. This means you can get up to 39 weeks from the date you apply to December 26, 2020.

Your benefits go back to when you stopped work and applied for UI.

If you have been unemployed for a few weeks and your employer did not tell you to apply for UI, or you were delayed because it was difficult to apply, you can get UI benefits for the weeks you missed. Be sure to note in the UI Online system when you first became unemployed This is called a “predate.”

The unusually high numbers of people out of work has triggered the UI system to add 13 more weeks to the number of weeks you can get Unemployment Insurance after you get PEUC. This is the Extended Benefit or EB program. Usually you can only get EB if you worked for at least 20 weeks before you applied for regular UI. The state has not started paying EB yet.

How do I apply?

File a claim with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA)’s UI Online.

UI Online is available daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Applying through UI Online is the fastest way to get UI benefits. But the website is only in English. It cannot be used with a smartphone or a tablet.

If you have trouble completing the application online, ask for help by filling out the COVID-19: Department of Unemployment Assistance Contact Request form.

You can apply by telephone:
877-626-6800 or
617-626-6800. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has dedicated phone lines for people who speak Spanish and Portuguese. If you speak another language, the DUA will use an interpreter.

How do I prove to the DUA that I should get UI benefits?

DUA will ask you the name of your employer or employers during the past 15 months.

They will get your wage records from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to see how much you earned from each employer. To get these records, DUA needs the exact name of your employer. Be sure and use the name of the employer and the employer’s ID number that is on your W-2. 

Important

Use the employer search tool in the online application, to answer the questions about your employer. DUA is denying many Unemployment applications because the name of the employer does not match DOR's records.

After DUA checks your earnings records with DOR, they will notify you. Check the notice to make sure the information they have about your earnings is correct. They call this information “monetary eligibility”. If the monetary eligibility is wrong, call 877-626-6800.

If the DUA approves your application and if you might return to your work after the coronavirus pandemic dies down, stay in touch with your employer.

You do not need to give DUA any medical documentation to show you are not working because of the coronavirus. But, if your employer is asking you to return to work and you are worried about your health, it will be helpful to get a note from your health care provider.

If you miss a UI deadline because of the coronavirus or its effects, you will be excused for missing the deadline. But pay attention to all communications from the Department of Unemployment Assistance so you can avoid any problems or delays in getting UI.

How Do I Continue to Get Benefits?

To continue to get benefits you have to certify on a weekly basis that you are able, available and actively seeking work that is suitable for you during this pandemic. You can certify on-line (English only) or Telecert with a TeleCert PIN. See DUA’s instructions for creating a TeleCert PIN.

TeleCert line is available in Spanish, Portuguese and Cantonese.

TeleCert instructions are available in 13 languages.

How Do I Get The 13 Week Federal Extension of Unemployment or PEUC?

If you have used up or “exhausted” your regular benefits, PEUC will automatically begin.

If your “benefit year” – the 52 week period after you applied for unemployment has ended -- you have to file a new claim for regular UI and you must get benefits under that claim (even if the amount is lower). If you are not eligible for a new claim, you can get PEUC on your prior claim.

If you were getting PUA after exhausting your regular benefits or after your benefit year had ended, you will have to reopen your “exhausted” claim. We know this is all very exhausting!

Non-citizens

If you are a non-citizen you need a valid Social Security Number and work authorization to apply for UI.

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

Reminder- Save your time off!

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

You do not need to use up all your unpaid sick time, vacation time, personal time. If you do not have any paid leave, apply for Unemployment as soon as you stop working.

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 Contact Request form.

Created June 1, 2020

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.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm