COVID-19 & Unemployment
We understand that to due to the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19, many of our clients have questions regarding what the current circumstances means for their business.
We have created this page to provide updates as they become available.
Getting Back to Work FAQ for Employers (State of MA):
If employees have been offered hours at their workplaces but refuse to return to work due to COVID-19, can they be denied unemployment benefits?
Employees who can work remotely for their current employer and refuse to do so, or who quit work solely to collect unemployment benefits, may be denied benefits. But employees with a reasonable justification for refusing to return to work remain eligible for benefits. Determining what is “reasonable” is a fact-specific inquiry.
The employee’s own health situation is an important consideration, as are the work conditions and the job the employer offers, including whether employees work with or near other employees or members of the public.
If an individual’s work requires them to be physically present in the workplace, the employer may lawfully terminate individuals who refuse to return to work.
4/9/20 via DUA
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
The FPUC program will provide an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), Trade Readjustment Act (TRA), and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DA). The Department has already begun implementing the FPUC program for regular UC claimants. The $600 will be added to all eligible weeks of benefits retroactive to March 29, 2020 and continuing until July 31, 2020. FPUC monetary disbursements will begin immediately in Massachusetts for those who are currently collecting benefits on regular UC claims. Those receiving PEUC, PUA, and EB will receive the additional $600 payments retroactive to March 29, 2020 as soon as their claims are processed and determined eligible.
Next Steps For Claimants: Eligible claimants who are already receiving UI do not need to do anything for the additional $600 to be added to their weekly benefit amount. This benefit will be available for all new claimants filing for regular Unemployment Compensation as well, which can be done at mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
PUA will provide up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not working as a result of COVID-19 and are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others who otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or PEUC. These individuals will not be able to claim benefits directly through the UI Online System in Massachusetts, as of this time. The Department of Unemployment Assistance has engaged a vendor to build a new platform to disburse PUA benefits. The platform is expected to begin accepting PUA claims on or around April 30, 2020. Eligible claimants under PUA will be retroactively compensated with this benefit beginning February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19, whichever date is later. The last week this benefit is payable is the week ending December 26, 2020.
Next Steps For Claimants: Eligible claimants should continue to check for updates at mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19 on the new platform, which will be ready this month. Once the system is up and running, eligible claimants will receive this benefit backdated to February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
The PEUC program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits. The first week a claimant can be compensated on this benefit is the week beginning March 29, 2020, and the last payable week is the week ending December 26, 2020. The Department of Unemployment Assistance is awaiting additional federal guidance on how to implement and administer this program and the extended weeks of PEUC benefits are not yet available.
Next Steps For Claimants: No action at this time. Eligible claimants should continue to check for updates, which will be made available as soon as the state receives information from the federal government.
4/3/20 DUA FAQ (State of MA):
Employer COVID-19 FAQ:
3/30/20 The CARES Act per The Department of Unemployment Assistance:
The federal government recently enacted the CARES Act, which provides unemployment compensation to individuals not covered under regular Massachusetts unemployment law, such as those who are self-employed or paid by 1099s, those who have recently exhausted their weeks of unemployment benefits, and those who do not have sufficient earnings over the last year to qualify for state unemployment.
The CARES Act also extends the number of available weeks of benefits for all claimants, and supplements all claimants’ weekly benefit amount by $600.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance is awaiting federal guidance regarding the CARES Act’s application requirements, business rules, eligibility requirements, exceptions, and technical requirements. Until that guidance is issued, benefits under the CARES Act are not yet available in Massachusetts and claimants may not apply for such benefits through UI Online at this time.
Updates about when CARES Act benefits will be available, and about when and how you should apply for those benefits will be posted at mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19 as soon as they are available.
3/16/20 per The Department of Unemployment Assistance:
The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA), in coordination with the US Department of Labor (USDOL), are taking a series of actions to assist workers and employers:
For current unemployment claims:
All requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended.
Missing deadlines due to effects of COVID-19 will be considered good cause, and lateness will be excused.
All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.
The Department of Labor issued guidance to the states instructing state agencies to apply existing law flexibly. Under the DOL guidance, DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.
To assist individuals who cannot work due to the impact of COVID-19, the Administration is filing emergency legislation that will allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits.
EOLWD and DUA are also filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment in the following circumstances:
The workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. Workers must remain in contact with their employer and be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do, but do not otherwise need to be looking for work.
An employer may extend the period of the shut-down to eight weeks, and the employees will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods.
Employers who are impacted by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and pay contributions.
The pending federal legislation proposes further relief including additional money for unemployment benefits, and relief to employers for charges related to unemployment benefits paid due to COVID-19.
For more information, head to https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-directives