Q. I got laid off, and I am thinking of going back to school. Should I still file for unemployment?
A.The range of benefits provided by the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) extends far beyond a weekly check, and I encourage you to look into all of the benefits that may be available to you.
The process of opening a claim can be frustrating, and the DUA has taken steps to make it easier to file, with WebCert and TeleCert. Check www.Mass.gov/dua/webcert for the basic steps to register for online services . You can also call TeleCert at 1-617-626-6338. For assistance in using the services, you speak to a TeleClaim representative at 1-877-626-6800, or 1-617-626-6800. The phone are busy and it can be difficult to get through. Insiders say to access services Sunday between 1 and 7 p.m. to have a speedier experience.
The maximum DUA check is $628 dollars a week - and is based on your most recent gross pay. Currently benefits last for 26 weeks, and through federal extensions, can go for 46 weeks. If there is an additional federal extension - which seems to be in the works - benefits could run for up to 59 weeks.
These are the well-known DUA services, but your question about school points to some of these less well known benefits DUA can provide. I spoke to Ken Messina, Rapid Response Manager at the Division of Career Services. Ken, whose colleagues run the One Stop Career Centers, explained the many educational and training support programs that DUA supports.
For example, Section 30 allows people to attend specific training and certificate programs full time while collecting unemployment benefits. These programs need to be shorter than one-year programs, and have strong job placement potential. You can also apply to extend DUA cash benefits for up to 18 weeks while in approved training.
So, look into all the benefits, stay patient, and recognize the bureaucracy is in place that can be slow. But if you do the research, you may find more support than you anticipated.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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