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Massachusetts Unemployment Guide

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Learn about the self-help resources available to you at Massachusetts Job Centers.

Coronavirus Update! -- What Massachusetts Residents Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits

As the coronavirus continues to keep businesses closed across the country, the unemployment rate remains high in every state. If you have lost your job in Massachusetts, apply for unemployment benefits at the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. Find resources about how unemployment claims relating to COVID-19 will be handled in Massachusetts.

As of the end of November 2020, more than 20 million people were collecting some form of unemployment. This figure includes the millions of employees who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments have taken to contain it, from orders shutting down nonessential businesses to shelter-in-place restrictions, school closures, and more. It also includes millions of gig workers, contractors, and self-employed people who are collecting unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

If You Are Still Employed: Some states provide paid time off that may be available to you. See Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in Massachusetts to learn more. 

How Unemployment Programs Are Adapting to COVID-19

Federal and state governments have made changes to their unemployment programs, to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. more...  

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How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, some states are imposing restrictions on people gathering in public locations. This may affect your ability to access physical offices of the the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance in person. Check Massachusetts's unemployment insurance agency website for more information. And, read on to find out how you can file for unemployment insurance benefits in Massachusetts online or by phone.

If You Are Still Employed: You may be eligible for emergency paid sick leave or paid family leave under a new federal law, the Families First Coronavirus Act. Some states also provide paid time off that may be available to you. See Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in Massachusetts to learn more about these programs. 

Massachusetts's unemployment insurance agency website gives you the information you need to apply for unemployment insurance in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance’s website tells you:

  • What information you’ll need on hand to apply for unemployment insurance benefits
  • How to apply online for unemployment insurance benefits
  • How to file for benefits if you don’t want to file online
  • How to reach the agency's Teleclaim Center for help
  • How to calculate the amount of unemployment insurance benefits you can receive, and
  • What to do to keep receiving unemployment insurance benefits in Massachusetts.

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Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?

You qualify for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts if you meet two basic requirements:

  • you must have earned at least a minimum amount in the time before you lost your job, and
  • you must be out of work through no fault of your own.

If you meet these two qualifications when you apply, you will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. (To keep receiving benefits after you are found eligible, you will also have to meet your state’s job search requirements; to learn more, see What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?)

Coronavirus Update: In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the "CARES" Act, which we cover here), which greatly expanded eligibility for unemployment; in December 2020, Congress passed a temporary extension of some of these benefits. (Learn about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides benefits to gig workers, freelancers, and others who aren't eligible for traditional unemployment benefits.) A number of states are also easing their eligibility rules to ensure that more people who are out of work due to COVID-19 qualify for unemployment benefits.

To learn about how Massachusetts is handling unemployment claims in light of the coronavirus pandemic, check out the Massachusetts resource page on unemployment benefits and COVID-19, which includes links to an FAQ and claim-filing guide. Massachusetts also has a resource page on the CARES Act.

 

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How the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Affects Massachusetts Unemployment Benefits

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package that pumps money into many areas of our economy that have been impacted by COVID-19, including unemployment benefits. In December of 2020, Congress passed an emergency stimulus bill that extends or renews some of these programs. Read on to learn how the CARES Act affects those who are out of work in Massachusetts.

More Massachusetts Workers Are Eligible for Benefits

In every state, employees qualify for benefits if they are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. However, prior to the CARES Act, some categories of workers could not get benefits, including independent contractors (freelancers, gig workers, and the self-employed). The CARES Act authorizes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which makes these workers eligible for unemployment for the first time during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Part-time workers are eligible for benefits under this new program, even if state law does not ordinarily allow them to collect benefits. And, workers who do not have a sufficient work history to qualify for benefits under Massachusetts's usual eligibility rules might still qualify.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program was set to expire on December 26, 2020. Shortly before this expiration date, Congress passed an emergency stimulus measure that extends the program until March 14, 2021. Because the President delayed signing the stimulus measure until December 27, there will be a temporary lapse in benefits under the program (because it briefly expired). 

Massachusetts Workers Who Are Out of Work Due to COVID-19 Likely Qualify for Benefits

The CARES Act also relaxes eligibility rules about the reasons workers are unemployed to allow more workers to collect benefits. For example, you will be eligible for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program if you are out of work for any of these reasons:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a diagnosis.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are caring for a family or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You cannot work because your child or other household member for whom you are the primary caregiver is unable to attend school or another facility that has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You are unable to go to work because of a quarantine or because you have been advised to self-quarantine by a health-care provider.
  • You were scheduled to begin a job that no longer exists or that you can’t get to for reasons relating to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You have become the breadwinner or major support for your household because the head of household died as a result of COVID-19.
  • You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your workplace is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Some states have expanded their traditional unemployment programs to cover coronavirus-related job losses.

To learn about how Massachusetts is handling unemployment claims in light of the coronavirus pandemic, check out the Massachusetts resource page on unemployment benefits and COVID-19, which includes links to an FAQ and claim-filing guide. Massachusetts also has a resource page on the CARES Act.

If you have lost work due to COVID-19 but don't qualify under your state's rules, you will likely qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

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COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts FAQ

1. What are coronavirus unemployment benefits?

2. How do I apply for unemployment if I am out of work due to COVID-19?

3. Can self-employed people and gig workers who have lost work due to COVID-19 collect unemployment?

4. How much will I get in unemployment benefits if I am unemployed due to COVID-19?

5. How long will my benefits last if I am unemployed because of COVID-19?

6. Can I collect unemployment if I was furloughed due to COVID-19?

7. Can I collect unemployment if I am quarantined or have symptoms of COVID-19?

8. Can I collect unemployment if I can’t work because my child’s school or care facility was closed due to COVID-19?

9. Where can I find the latest information on how Massachusetts is dealing with unemployment claims relating to coronavirus?

1. What are coronavirus unemployment benefits?

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Employment Security Act (the CARES Act) created several new unemployment programs, designed specifically to reach those who have lost work due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments have taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus. These programs include:

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Unemployment Benefits for Contractors, Gig Workers, and Self-Employed Workers in Massachusetts

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress passed on March 27, 2020 – extends unemployment benefits to many workers who are not eligible for traditional unemployment. Although the program was originally set to end in December 2020, Congress recently extended it until March 14, 2021. Read on to learn more about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides up to 50 weeks of benefits to gig workers, contractors, self-employed people, and others in Massachusetts who have lost income as a result of COVID-19 and don’t otherwise qualify for unemployment.

Do You Qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

You must meet two criteria to qualify for PUA: You must not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits, and you must have lost work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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How Long Will My Unemployment Benefits Last in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, you can receive unemployment benefits for a maximum of 30 weeks. When extended benefits are available or unemployment is low, the maximum is 26 weeks

Once your Massachusetts benefits run out, you will be entitled to up to 24 weeks of additional benefits under the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which Congress recently extended until March 14, 2021. In times of high unemployment, extended benefits under a different federal program may also be available.  

Each state sets its own rules for how long unemployment benefits last. Until quite recently, virtually all states offered a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. In the last five or six years, however, some states have changed their rules on duration of benefits (in most cases, to offer benefits for a shorter period of time). more...  

What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, federal and state governments are rapidly making changes to their unemployment programs, to ensure that more people who are out of work receive benefits more quickly. These changes may affect waiting periods, job search requirements, and availability of benefits to those who are still working part time. These changes include the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act, which greatly expands the nation's unemployment compensation program, including continuation of benefits. Keep in mind that you are entitled to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits under the federal CARES Act after your state benefits are exhausted if you are unemployed due to COVID-19.

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Making Weekly Unemployment Benefit Claims in Massachusetts

Approval of your initial claim for unemployment benefits is just the beginning of the unemployment compensation process for you. You need to file weekly claims (in most states; some states require bi-weekly filings) with Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance to keep receiving benefit payments. The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance describes the weekly claim-filing requirements in its Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Claimant. The Massachusetts agency website also has instructions on how to file for weekly benefits.

Contacting the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, some states are imposing restrictions on people gathering in public locations. This may affect your ability to access physical offices of the the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance in person. Check Massachusetts's unemployment insurance agency website for more information. In some states, you can even contact the unemployment agency by snail mail. You can find the contact information for the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance in Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Claimant. The handbook lists the addresses and phone numbers to reach the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance if you have questions or you want to follow up on your claim for unemployment benefits.

Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?

In order to collect unemployment, you must meet two basic requirements. First, you must have earned at least a minimum amount, set by state law, in the time before you lost your job. Second, you must be out of work through no fault of your own. For more information about these requirements, see Who is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?

If you lose your job in a layoff, reduction-in-force (RIF), or downsizing, you will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. But, these are not the only ways that employees lose their jobs. Your eligibility for benefits depends upon the reason you become unemployed. 

If You Were Fired for Misconduct

Generally-speaking, if you are terminated, you can collect unemployment insurance benefits in Massachusetts. But, there is an exception to that general rule in Massachusetts:

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Can I Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?

If the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance denies you unemployment insurance benefits, you can appeal. After you file your initial claim for unemployment benefits, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance will send you a written determination of your eligibility for benefits and, if it finds you eligible, how much you will receive in benefits. But, if the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance finds that you are not eligible for benefits or grants you benefits in a lower amount than you believe you are entitled to, you can appeal that decision. And, if the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance finds you eligible to receive benefits, your ex-employer can appeal that decision.

If you want to appeal the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance decision, check the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance website and handbook for:

  • Any forms and instructions for filing your appeal
  • The deadline for filing your appeal
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Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?

Having your own lawyer to represent you in the unemployment insurance benefits process in Massachusetts will level the playing field for you—because your ex-employer will be represented. Your ex-employer is almost certainly going to have a lawyer or two offering guidance through the Massachusetts unemployment process. This legal advice can give your ex-employer an edge over you in the process, especially if they intend to challenge your claim for benefits. Your own lawyer can:

  • Help you figure out if you are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in Massachusetts
  • Tell you if your employer’s stated reason for terminating you is valid and will bar benefits
  • Guide you through Massachusetts’s unemployment insurance benefits claim process
  • Advise you on how to keep receiving unemployment insurance benefits, and
  • Assist you if you need to appeal a denial of unemployment insurance benefits by the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance

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How Can I Find a Good Unemployment Lawyer in Massachusetts?

There are several ways to find a good lawyer to help with your unemployment claim in Massachusetts. The best way to find a lawyer is always through a referral from someone you know. Ask family members, friends, and other professionals you work with whether they can recommend a good employment lawyer. 

Lawyers specialize, so your friend’s divorce lawyer won’t be the right person to handle your unemployment appeal. However, lawyers also know other lawyers, so don’t hesitate to ask a well-recommended lawyer in a different field for an employment lawyer referral. 

If you can’t find a lawyer through personal referrals, here are a couple of other options: 

Finding an Unemployment Lawyer in Malden, Massachusetts

Do you need legal help with your claim for unemployment benefits or your appeal of a denial of benefits in Malden, Massachusetts? You’ll want to find an attorney who knows Massachusetts unemployment law, understands the process for filing a claim, appeal, or lawsuit in Massachusetts, and has experience in the administrative agencies and courts in Massachusetts.

Here are some good ways to find the right lawyer.

Legal Aid Serving Malden, Massachusetts

If your income is low, you may be able to get legal help for your unemployment claim through your local legal aid organization.

Listing of free legal services in Malden, Massachusetts from Legal Services Corporation.

(Current income guidelines to qualify for legal aid.)

Not every legal aid office handles unemployment cases. But if your local legal aid office does not, or if your income exceeds the legal aid limit, the office may be able to refer you to a local unemployment lawyer.  

Directories of Malden, Massachusetts Unemployment Attorneys

Here are a few selected websites that offer directories of employment attorneys that serve Malden, Massachusetts. Not all attorneys list on all directories, so we offer a choice here to let users access the widest possible selection of Malden, Massachusetts unemployment lawyers. 

Lawyer Referral Services in Massachusetts

Check with the Massachusetts Bar Association for information about lawyer referral services in Malden, Massachusetts. A lawyer referral service matches potential clients with attorneys who specialize in that area of law, such as wrongful termination or unemployment appeals. 

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Paying an Unemployment Lawyer in Massachusetts

If you may be (or already have been) denied unemployment benefits in Massachusetts, you may be wondering whether you need a lawyer -- and whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help with your unemployment case. (If you're wondering what a lawyer can do for you, check out Five Ways an Unemployment Lawyer Can Help You.) It all depends on your financial situation and how (and how much) the attorney charges. In some situations, an unemployment attorney may be willing to offer you a contingency fee arrangement. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award. 

Below, we explain some typical attorney fee arrangements in unemployment cases. 

Initial Consultation

Your first step in choosing an attorney – and deciding whether it makes sense to fight your employer in an unemployment claim, appeal, or lawsuit – is an initial consultation. The initial consultation provides you and the attorney an opportunity to decide whether and how you will work together. 

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Five Ways an Unemployment Lawyer Can Help You in Massachusetts

If you have a straightforward unemployment claim, you will likely be able to file for unemployment benefits on your own, without any help from a lawyer. Your claim is relatively simple if you can easily meet the Massachusetts earnings requirements to qualify for benefits, and you and your employer agree that you lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, because you were laid off or had to quit when your military spouse was transferred to another state).

But if your case is more complicated, it might make sense to consult with or hire an unemployment lawyer to represent you. An unemployment lawyer can help you if you are facing any of the situations described below.

1. Your Employer Claims You Were Fired for Misconduct

You may not be eligible for benefits in Massachusetts if you were fired for deliberate misconduct, violation of an employer rule, or conviction of a felony or misdemeanor. 

 

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About Unemployment Benefits By Zip Code

Here at Legal Consumer, we want to help people find answers to everyday legal questions about important topics like bankruptcy, Obamacare, inheritance, and more. 

Now, we’ve turned our attention to employment law. Because, while almost everyone has (or has had) a job, it can be surprisingly tough to get good, high-quality local information about workplace rights. 

We'll be adding new topics over time, but we’ve started with unemployment benefits. If you’ve recently lost your job, unemployment benefits can be a real lifesaver. They replace some of your income, temporarily, while you look for a new job. But not everyone qualifies for benefits, and the amount and duration of benefits can vary a lot from state to state. 

more...  

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