covid-19-state-federal-updates-2

Updated January 19, 2021

For up-to-the-minute information on COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website by clicking the button below.

For up-to-the-minute information on COVID-19 in Massachusetts, please visit the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) website by clicking the button below.

If you have any questions about the below information,

please contact our office using this online contact form or by calling (413) 367-4656 or (617) 722-1532.

Unemployment

UPDATE: The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) issues information on the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020

If you need help with an unemployment application, have questions, or are experiencing issues, please contact the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) via these numbers:

DUA Call Center (call for assistance with UI or PUA, but listen to prompts so you are directed to the correct place) – (877) 626-6800
Open 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday, 8 a.m–12 p.m. Saturday. Multilingual call agents are available.

TeleCert Line (Automated system is operational, please do not transfer to an agent within the system) – (617) 626-6338
To request weekly benefits, daily 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

Hearing Impaired Voice Relay – 711

Payment Status Line (Automated system is operational, please do not transfer to an agent within the system) – (617) 626-6563

Helpful link:

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

If you’ve lost your job, you may qualify for temporary income to support you. You should apply for unemployment benefits during your first week of total or partial unemployment. Most claims are processed within 21-28 days after filing. It may take longer if there is an issue with your claim.

Unemployment eligibility and determinations are done on a very case-by-case basis. If you need help understanding if you’re eligible or how your benefits are calculated, please contact our office. This informational page is also helpful in understanding how benefits are determined.

If you are experiencing issues with your account or claim, please contact our office. For expedited service, please be sure to complete the information requested in the Unemployment section.

Helpful links:

Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 Unemployment Benefits

The Department of Unemployment Assistance continues to await additional guidance from the US Department of Labor as to program implementation and will provide additional updates on this page as they become available.

Helpful link:

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

FPUC  provides 11 weeks of an additional $300 weekly benefit to eligible claimants. A claimant must be eligible through a separate unemployment program to receive FPUC. FPUC will be available to cover weeks of unemployment between the week ending January 2, 2021, and the week ending March 13, 2021.

Beginning January 6, 2021, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has implemented the recent extension of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) for unemployment insurance (UI) claimants. UI claimants will receive an additional $300 with their weekly benefit payment for the week ending January 2, 2021 as early as 1/6/21.

PUA claimants will receive their FPUC payment when the PUA program is implemented.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PUA will provide additional weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 57 weeks. Weekly certification will be required. New PUA claimants filing after January 31, 2021 will be required to provide documentation of employment, self-employment, or a qualifying job offer within 21 days of filing. Claimants with established claims receiving payments in 2021 will have 90 days to provide such documentation. PUA will be available until at least week ending March 13, 2021. Some claimants may be able to claim additional weeks of benefits through week ending April 10, 2021, if they have not reached the maximum number of week.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has implemented the extended PUA program and payments after the week ending December 26, 2020 will be paid beginning on Monday, January 11, 2020. Claimants should continue to file weekly claim certifications as scheduled.

Helpful links:

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

PEUC will provide 11 additional weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 24 weeks. For many PEUC claimants, the PEUC program will conclude the week ending March 13, 2021. However, claimants who are receiving PEUC during the week ending March 13, 2021 and have not yet exhausted their 24 weeks will be able to claim PEUC through the week ending April 10, 2021.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has implemented the extended PEUC program. Eligible claimants will receive payment for the week ending January 2, 2021.

Helpful links:

Unemployment Extended Benefits (EB)

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ unemployment rate has triggered federal Extended Benefits (EB). EB is available for certain eligible regular unemployment insurance (UI) claimants for up to 20 weeks or until week ending March 13, 2021.

Eligible UI claimants will be presented with an application for EB through their UI Online account.

To be eligible for EB, UI claimants must have:

  • Exhausted all rights to regular UI (Unemployment Insurance) under Massachusetts law
  • No rights to regular UI with respect to any UI law of another state or Canada
  • Exhausted Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Wages in the base period (with respect to the regular UI claim that was exhausted) that includes 1 of the following:
    • 20 weeks of full-time covered employment,
    • Wages higher than 40 times your most recent weekly benefit amount, or
    • Total wages in the base period equal to or greater than 1.5 times the highest quarter
  • No disqualifications that would prevent you from being eligible for EB and
  • Regular UI benefit year ended on or after May 9, 2020

More information here.

Helpful link:

Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance (LWA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved Massachusetts’ application to receive grant funding to pay an additional weekly unemployment benefit to eligible claimants under the federal Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance (LWA) program.

Per FEMA’s authorization, the grant will fund an additional $300 weekly payment to eligible claimants for the six weeks ending 8/1/20, 8/8/20, 8/15/20, 8/22/20, 8/29/20, and 9/5/20. Claimants who were receiving unemployment benefits because they were unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for the six weeks will receive the LWA payment.

Eligible claimants currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action because the Commonwealth will automatically add LWA to their weekly benefit payment retroactive to the dates they are eligible.

Working Part-Time While Receiving Unemployment Benefits

If you work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits, either through traditional state unemployment insurance (UI) or federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), you may still qualify for unemployment benefits. The weekly benefit amount you receive may be adjusted based on how much you earn from your part-time job.

If you work part-time hours during weeks in which you request unemployment benefits, you may still be paid benefits if your gross wages (total wages before taxes are deducted) are less than your weekly benefit amount. Any earnings greater than 1/3 of your weekly benefit amount (known as your earnings disregard) will be deducted dollar-for-dollar from your weekly benefit payment.

You must report any changes in your unemployment status while you are receiving benefits. It is your responsibility to report all your earnings when requesting weekly benefits if you get a part-time job.

If you work full-time hours in any given week, you will be considered employed “full-time” regardless of wages, and you will not be eligible for benefits for that week. Full-time is generally between 35 and 40 hours per week. You are considered employed full-time if you are working the customary full-time schedule in your job or occupation.

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Report Unemployment Benefits Fraud

Criminal enterprises using stolen personal information from earlier national data breaches have been attempting to file fraudulent unemployment claims through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) system. This is part of a national unemployment fraud scheme.

If you believe someone has applied for unemployment benefits using your personal information, please use DUA’s secure fraud reporting form to alert them or call the DUA customer service department at (877) 626-6800.

If you believe your identity has been stolen and you are a victim of fraud, you can protect yourself by reporting identity theft to law enforcement, creditors, credit agencies, and government agencies.

If you are an employer who wishes to report fraud, please email UIFraud@detma.org.

Helpful links:

CARES Act Unemployment Benefits

On March 27, 2020, the federal government enacted the CARES Act which extends federally funded unemployment benefit eligibility to individuals who are:

  • self-employed, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors;
  • seeking part-time employment;
  • have an insufficient work history to qualify for benefits;
  • have exhausted all rights to regular or extended benefits under state or federal law or to Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC);
  • have been laid off from churches and religious institutions and are not eligible for benefits under state law;
  • or otherwise would not qualify for regular or extended benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

The last payable week for CARES Act unemployment benefits was the week ending December 26, 2020.

Helpful links:

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) under the CARES Act

PUA may provide up to 46 weeks* of unemployment benefits to individuals who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 and are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits under state or federal law.

You should apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance retroactive to your first week of total or partial unemployment.

Eligible individuals must apply through the PUA application (separate from UI Online) which became available on April 20, 2020. More information is here.

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 (under the CARES Act) was payable is the week ending December 26, 2020.

If you have both self-employed income and W-2 income, it is in the federal CARES Act statute that you must apply for traditional state unemployment insurance (UI) first before applying for PUA. If you qualify for UI, you are ineligible for and may not apply for PUA. You cannot collect both UI and PUA.

If you are experiencing issues with your account or claim, please contact our office using this form. For expedited service, please be sure to complete the information requested in the Unemployment section.

*Updated August 7, 2020: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ unemployment rate has triggered federal Extended Benefits (EB). This is a federal extension of 7 weeks for all Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants bringing the total weeks from 39 to 46.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) under the CARES Act

The CARES Act authorized an extension of unemployment benefits  for individuals who have exhausted benefits as far back as July 1, 2019. PEUC may provide up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits. The last payable week for PEUC benefits (under the CARES Act) was the week ending December 26, 2020.

PEUC benefits are available through the standard Unemployment Insurance program in Massachusetts and can be accessed at UI Online.

If you had exhausted your regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefit but were receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) you must visit UI Online to apply and claim your weekly benefits through UI Online as PUA will no longer be distributing PEUC.

PEUC will automatically begin for individuals who have been receiving regular standard unemployment benefits on an active claim and those benefits are exhausted, and those individuals do not have to take any further action.

More information on PEUC can be found here.

If you are experiencing issues with your account or claim, please contact our office using this form. For expedited service, please be sure to complete the information requested in the Unemployment section.

Helpful links:

Unemployment for Employers

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Employer Unemployment Insurance Contribution Rates/Experience Ratings

We know employers are concerned about their unemployment expenses as a result of so many people accessing unemployment benefits. In response, the Massachusetts legislature released a bill and the Governor signed it into law on May 21, 2020 that would exempt an employer’s experience rating from the impacts of an unemployment claim resulting from the effects of COVID-19 or the effects of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency, and directs resulting charges to the solvency account that are not paid for by federal funds for either a year from the effective date or 6 months after the termination of the March 10, 2020 state of emergency, whichever is later.

WorkShare

WorkShare is a program that offers a smart alternative to layoffs. Employees work reduced hours while collecting unemployment benefits to supplement their lower wages.

Because many businesses are reducing hours for employees without laying them off, they can find it useful to use the WorkShare program.

  • Employers must enter agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) about employees that will be covered
  • Eligibility is based upon unemployment eligibility
  • Benefit to employee is based upon hours that are being reduced as a share of full-time work – that reduction in hours % is multiplied by the UI benefit the worker would receive if they were fully unemployed
  • Current benefit rate of UI is maximum of ½ of income or up to $823/week
  • WorkShare participants must plan for at least 10% reduction in hours and no more than 60% reduction in hours

Helpful links:

Rapid Response – Layoff Aversion

Rapid Response tries to identify the exact needs of a company in crisis. Once the needs are assessed then the team tries to help the company establish partnerships with other organizations and build networks to help them try and acquire those needs meant to reduce the possibility of layoffs or a plant closure.

Some of the resources available to companies to maintain their workforce include:

  • Matching businesses that are in transition with businesses that are hiring for similar
  • Communicating directly with employers on their needs and what is necessary to avoid layoffs
  • Educate employers on various state and local programs and agencies including:
    • WorkShare Program
    • Workforce Training Funds
    • Career Centers
    • Tax Incentives
    • Business Loans
    • Growth based systems for manufacturing
    • Employee Ownership and succession plans
    • Export opportunity identification
    • SBA information

For more information, contact Rapid Response.

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Personal Health & Safety

Domestic Safety

If you or someone you know does not feel safe at home, please call 1-800-799-7233 for live support. If you are unable to speak safely, you can chat online at thehotline.org, or text LOVEIS to 22522.

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Emotional Health & Well-Being

Taking care of your emotional health and well-being during this time is important. Decreasing stress can help bolster your immune system and can help keep you and others around you healthy. Click here for a list of resources and tips for staying emotionally healthy and well.

Contact your behavioral health provider to see if they can schedule a telehealth visit. Telehealth is a virtual therapy session. Many providers are now offering this option.

Below are additional resources.

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Addiction & Recovery Resources

This is an unsettling time for those working to address opioid and substance misuse and for those in treatment or recovery from substance and opioid use disorders. The Opioid Task Force put together an array of resources to help.

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Testing & Vaccine

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Health Insurance

For help with health insurance enrollment, call Health Care For All’s free and multilingual Health Coverage HelpLine at 1-800-272-4232 or visit the Health Coverage HelpLine website. The HelpLine provides assistance in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

MassHealth

MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and provides comprehensive health coverage for low-income people and eligible seniors and people with disabilities. Most people have no premiums and no copays. Due to COVID-19, you can now apply for insurance at any time. Enrollment information is available online or by calling MassHealth’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-841-2900 (TTY: 1-800-497-4648).

Effective immediately, MassHealth will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18, 2020 and for all individuals approved for coverage during the COVID-19 outbreak national emergency and for one month after the emergency period ends. Coverage will only end if an individual requests termination of eligibility or if they are no longer a resident of the state. Members will not lose coverage or have a decrease in benefits for any other reason.

For individuals who have received notices that their coverage is ending after March 18, 2020, no change in coverage will occur. You do not have to send in any paperwork to keep your coverage, and steps will be taken to ensure your coverage does not terminate.

Helpful links:

Health Connector

The Health Connector is the state’s marketplace for reduced-cost coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It is also the easiest place to shop for and enroll in regular individual and family insurance plans.

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, an extended enrollment period is available through May 25, 2020 for qualified Massachusetts residents who are uninsured.

If you need health insurance or have experienced a job change and no longer have health insurance through work, apply through the Massachusetts Health Connector.

If you already have health insurance coverage through the Health Connector, make sure to return to your application to update all changes in circumstances to ensure that you are receiving the most appropriate benefits. Even if you have not received financial assistance in the past, you may be newly eligible for subsidies that could lower your monthly health insurance premium.

Helpful links:

Group Insurance Commission (GIC)

The GIC provides and administers health insurance and other benefits to the Commonwealth’s employees and retirees, their dependents and survivors. The GIC also covers housing and redevelopment authority personnel, participating municipalities, as well as retired municipal employees and teachers in certain governmental units.

GIC’s annual enrollment begins Monday, April 6, 2020. Because of COVID-19, GIC has extended the deadline to Monday, June 1, 2020 to provide more time for members to review options and get questions answered by GIC Coordinators.

Helpful links:

Food Security

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, more people in Massachusetts are experiencing food insecurity. In March of this year alone, approximately 38% of Massachusetts residents have reported experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. This is a stark increase compared to the 2018 numbers of approximately 9% of Massachusetts residents experiencing food insecurity.

If you are experiencing food insecurity, there are resources available. Please visit the links below and/or contact our office for help with accessing these resources.

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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) administers SNAP benefits. SNAP provides a monthly benefit to buy nutritious foods. To get SNAP, you must be low-income and be a U.S. citizen or legal noncitizen (restrictions apply). Eligibility for SNAP benefits depends on financial and non-financial criteria.

If you qualify for and/or receive SNAP benefits, you may also qualify for P-EBT. See information on P-EBT below.

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Housing

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RAFT & ERMA

The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs may provide income-eligible households with up to $10,000 to pay overdue or future rent or mortgage costs. Both RAFT and ERMA are administered at the local level by Regional Administering Agencies (RAA), and you can apply to both programs through your RAA.

Contacting your RAA is the first step to accessing both RAFT and ERMA. 

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Multilingual COVID-19 Resources

Mass.gov web pages can be translated into the following languages by clicking the “Select Language” dropdown menu at the top of any Mass.gov page:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • French
  • Haitian Creole
  • Italian
  • Khmer
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese
Contra COVID

Contra COVID provides information, news, health and social resources in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole to help Latino and immigrant families with important resources that they might need during these difficult times. Visit Contra COVID’s website at contracovid.com.

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Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition

MIRA has created a continuously-updated page on their website on COVID-19 resources that are available to immigrant constituents, as well as an accessible Spanish-language guide (other languages in process) that may help constituents whose first language is Spanish.

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Department of Public Health (DPH) COVID-19 Prevention Multilingual Printable Factsheets

The Massachusetts DPH has created printable fact sheets on COVID-19 prevention in English, Spanish, Chinese, Portugese, Hatian Creole, Vietnamese, which can be downloaded here.

Helpful link:

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