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 currently available unemployment benefits and the now expired pandemic enhanced benefits.
2022-2023 Unemployment Benefits
With the end of the pandemic unemployment programs, only traditional/regular state unemployment benefits will be available in 2022, unless another extension is approved (highly unlikely).
In Massachusetts, this provides coverage for 26 to 30 weeks (adjusted during periods of low unemployment) with a weekly benefit payment of approximately 50% of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $1015 per week.
Your average weekly wage is based on the 2 highest earning quarters of earned income over the prior 4 quarters. See examples on the DUA site.
You can also get a $25 p/week dependent allowance (excluding spouses) for qualified dependents where you are the main support provider.
Note that to qualify for unemployment, your job loss will generally need to be involuntary. I.e. job loss through no fault of your own. You also need to certify and demonstrate ongoing work search requirements (see section below) to keep getting payments.
It generally takes 3 to 4 weeks after applying (see section below) for your claim to be verified and get notified of your outcome and unemployment benefit determination.
Your claim will be open for one year (benefit year) during which you can get the maximum benefit credit which in total is the lesser of 30 times your weekly benefits amount or 36% of your total wages in your base period.
End of Federal Enhanced Benefits in Massachusetts (PUA, PEUC, $300 FPUC and $100 MEUC)
The DUA has confirmed that claimants on the PEUC, PUA, MEUC and FPUC programs will file/certify for benefits for the last time covering the week ending September 4, 2021. Any active claims, with or without remaining balances, will expire after this date and any weeks after Sep 5th will NOT be paid.
While there has been a lot of discussion around extending pandemic unemployment benefits, the Biden administration has confirmed (see video) that states will have to use already allocated stimulus funding to expand or extend traditional state unemployment programs. The MA DUA has not indicated that is planning to do so at this stage, but I will post updates if things change.
Please also see the many comments in the forum at the end of the article where people have shared their stories, tips and struggles getting paid under one or more of these programs.
Some claimants may have been eligible for State Extended Benefits (SEB), but after September 4th all claimants must have a regular UI claim to continue receiving benefits.
Biden Stimulus Bill Extensions
Under President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan (ARP), enhanced unemployment benefits have been extended until September 6th. This includes further extensions to the PUA program, PEUC program, $300 weekly payment under the FPUC program and $100 Mixed Earners (MEUC) program. There were also provisions in the Biden Stimulus package for Unemployment tax breaks on the first $10,200 of benefits received in 2020.
Latest News and Status on PUA, PEUC and $300 FPUC Payment Schedule
The Federal Department of Labor (DOL) has now issued formal guidelines to implement the latest round of extensions until September 6th. For those who exhaust their benefits or have a zero claim balance after March 14th (when current CAA extensions end) there could be a lapse in benefits as DUA update their program/systems to enable the extended weeks of coverage funded under the ARP Program.
The DUA has implemented the extensions approved under the ARP and additional benefits will continue until the week ending on September 4, 2021. PUA claimants may now receive up to 79 weeks of benefits and PEUC claimants can get up to 53 weeks. Note that the latest ARP extension coverage period did say benefits would go for 29 weeks, but in actuality would only cover 25 weeks between week ending March 20th, 2021 and September 4th, 2021.
Extended Benefits (EB) will remain active due to continued federal funding until conditions for the 13-week entitlement “trigger off.” Claimants who exhaust EB need just continue certifying for benefits and will automatically transition on to the latest extension of the PEUC program.
I will post updates as they are made available and you can follow along via the options below for the latest updates.
2021 Unemployment Program Extensions Under COVID Relief Bill (until March 14th, 2021)
The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package (under the Continued Assistance Act – CAA) 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 27th, 2020 (week ending January 2, 2021) to March 14th, 2021. Existing claimants who have not yet exhausted their benefits prior to March 14th will be able to certify/claim benefits through the week ending April 10, 2021 (phase out period).
To receive the $300 extra FPUC weekly benefit (11 weeks maximum, ending on March 14th, 2021), you must be receiving UI, PEUC, EB, or PUA. This means that if you are not able to enroll or reactivate your claim under these programs you won’t get the $300 either.
MA DOL 2021 11-week Extension Payment Details and Updates on $300 FPUC, PUA and PEUC
[Update Feb 4th, 2021] The MA DUA continues to implement several provisions of the 11-week of extended benefits approved under the CAA. However thousands of claimants are still pending DUA PEUC program updates to apply for or reactivate their benefits.
PUA Program – Has been implemented for all claimants (active and exhausted claims) and benefits were being paid from January 11th, 2021 (retroactive to week of Jan 2nd). Claimants who claim and certify for the PUA benefits will also get the $300 payment. If you have not been able to file or claim extended weeks you need to call a DUA claims agent as you may have issues to address related to fraud, identity or missing documentation.
The extended PEUC program (PEUC 1.1) is still being implemented by the DUA. Claimants should expect to see payments in their account, including retroactive payments to the week ending January 2, 2021, if eligible, by February 9th, 2021. They will need to request (certify) for those weeks to get current and retroactive PEUC and $300 FPUC payments.
Claimants who exhausted PEUC 1.0 and Extended Benefits (EB), or were not eligible for EB, should check their claim by Monday, February 8, 2021. The PEUC 1.1 program should be on the claim and the claim status should change to “Exhausted Inactive” or “Expired Inactive”. The link to reopen will be available and will automatically predate the claim back to the week ending 1/2/2021. Claimants must reopen their claim by accessing their UI account or contacting a Claims Agent (they should have received instructions). The added or extended weeks should then be claimed/certified on the day after the claim is reopened.
I will post additional updates as they are released in coming days. So subscribe below for updates.
[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:
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.