Unemployment Update (7/10/2020)
There have been several cases of criminals using stolen personal information from an earlier national data breach to file unemployment claims through the Massachusetts unemployment system. This is part of a national unemployment fraud scheme. In fact, in Washington state, the fraud totaled at least $300 million. If you believe someone else may have filed for unemployment under your name, please report it here. One of the terrible consequences of this scheme is that those with legitimate claims — but whose identities or social security numbers have been used to file false claims — are prevented from filing a legitimate claim under their identity. Fortunately, my office has been able to help many people get this situation straightened out, so that they can proceed with their claim.
When applying for unemployment:
- Standard unemployment benefits provide temporary income assistance to eligible workers in Massachusetts. Visit this website to apply.
- For those unable to work because of a COVID-19-related reasons but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits, you may be eligible to apply for PUA assistance.
- There are daily Virtual Town Halls (in English and Spanish) to walk through how to apply. You can sign up for one here.
- Make sure you input your employer’s name as it appears on your W2.
- Often calls from the Unemployment Office show up as “Restricted” or “Possible Spam” and some phones automatically forward those calls to voicemail. Make sure this feature is turned off on your phone or provide an alternate phone number.
- Resources in Spanish can be found here. I have signed onto a letter with several other colleagues asking the Governor’s office to provide resources in many more languages.
- Please email me at Dave.Rogers@mahouse.gov if you have any issues or need help.
UPDATE 5/19/20 Business owners may go to the state’s reopening website to find the guidance and documents they need, where each sector has its own guidance and the links can be found on this main page. Businesses are required to self-certify that they have met the standards required to reopen and stay open. Each sector is supplied with a checklist to help business owners ensure they are compliant. In addition to sector-specific protocols, businesses must also follow the general guidance provided by the administration. This information can be found on the main page of the reopening website. You can see a full list of when every business and sector of the economy will open here. It is important to note that employers who are permitted to reopen as part of Phase One cannot bring back employees until they are fully compliant with the guidance provided by the administration.
Governor Baker signed into law An Act authorizing waiver of the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits, which waives the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits from the start of the current state of emergency until 90 days after its termination. While I appreciate this action, I do not think it goes nearly far enough. Therefore I filed An Act establishing unemployment benefits expansion during public health emergencies with Senator Pat Jehlen. This bill would extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks, from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. Additionally, those whose benefits recently ended (within the last 8 weeks) would also be eligible for an extension of 13 weeks of assistance. People would also not lose their benefits if they are not actively able to seek work. Finally, this legislation increases weekly unemployment benefits across the board, allowing people to receive a higher percentage share of their previous pay, without impacting their future unemployment eligibility.
If you or a family member needs to file a claim for unemployment assistance, or seek information about eligibility, please visit this website. My office is also able to assist you in interacting with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). In order to meet the growing demands, the DUA is hosting daily town hall meetings to help people understand the process of applying for unemployment and to answer questions across the state. You can sign up to attend a virtual town hall here.
We have had the ability to help a number of individuals cut through the backlog and get their unemployment claim processed. If you or any friends, family or neighbors might need assistance in getting a claim processed, please let me know. Individuals who normally would not qualify for unemployment benefits now have more access to such resources.
- The federal CARES Act expands unemployment eligibility in unprecedented ways by allowing so called gig workers and others to receive benefits.
- Because the MA Department of Unemployment Assistance has no record of gig workers or self-employed people, unlike traditional employees, they must create an entirely new system to process the claims from these workers.
- Having worked on large-scale software implementation projects, it is clear to me that the sheer scale and complexity of this project is daunting.
- The CARES Act also covers those who have exhausted their benefits and the state is now waiting for implementation guidance from the federal government for these claims.
Unemployment for Gig Economy Workers
- I filed An Act for unemployment rules for gig economy with Representative Jay Livingstone.
- Many companies hire independent contractors to provide a particular service to that company’s customers, but these contractors are not considered employees.
- The bill does not change the employment relationship, but it instructs companies that use independent contractors to pay unemployment benefits to those contractors.