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After layoff: Unemployment or school?

Posted by Elaine Varelas  January 15, 2009 10:30 AM

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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 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.

Have a question? E-mail us at, or use the form on the right.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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23 comments so far...
  1. Also, don't forget that unemployment benefits are taxed as income. If there is no withholding, be sure to keep aside 25% to pay Uncle Sam come tax time.

    But, yes, if you have the opportunity to file for unemployment, why not? What else do you have to do with your time, really? :)

    Posted by J January 15, 09 11:49 AM
  1. I'm pretty sure you CAN'T collect unemployment if you're a student. I would think you would want to mention that in the response. You could probably collect up until the time that classes begin, though.

    Posted by RT January 15, 09 02:13 PM
  1. I did not find any suitable job since I got my MBA in May 2007 from a very good private univeristy in Boston. As such, I have temped for several temp. employment
    agencies for almost 2 years. I am not sure I should go to school again, it seems
    to me there is hardly any relationship between one's degree and employment status or income. More than half of my MBA classmates are unemployed.
    Am I right, if there is almost no jobs around, college degree or
    degreeS Doesn't do any good!?

    Posted by Neil S. January 15, 09 02:17 PM
  1. I know more than one person who has delayed filing unemployment either because they felt they would get a comparable paying job within a few weeks or they felt guilty taking the benefits. Guilty!? People, DO NOT feel guilty about taking a benefit that is essentially your right as a law abiding taxpayer. OK, if you were making a half million a year before your layoff then maybe you should feel a little guilty, but for the working stiffs with families, file ASAP. It takes at least 3-6 weeks after you initially file before you see any money (retroactive to your filing date of course)

    Posted by fearitself January 15, 09 03:54 PM
  1. I was unemployed three years ago and took advantage of the Section 30. I received an additional 18 weeks and applied for the state to pay for my certificate program and was approved so not only did I receive the additional 18 weeks but they paid for my classes too. All I had to pay for was books.

    Posted by JG January 15, 09 04:06 PM
  1. Job Doc doesn't answer whether tuition assistance or scholarships will affect unemployment benefits.

    But I'd say ride out the recession by returning to school. Apply for EVERY scholarship you can find, and you'll have something to live on while you attend to your studies.

    Posted by reindeergirl January 15, 09 04:43 PM
  1. The fact that umemployment benefits are "taxable" is one of the true injustices in our tax code. How in the world does the IRS expect you to have the money to pay taxes when you are unemployed? Just utter stupidity.

    Posted by mrkleen2002 January 16, 09 02:09 PM
  1. "How in the world does the IRS expect you to have the money to pay taxes when you are unemployed? Just utter stupidity."

    Well another form of stupidity is not setting aside the money for taxes from your unemployment check. You can have them withdrawn when you sign up for benefits.

    Posted by ZZ January 16, 09 02:42 PM
  1. Re: Neil. It is true that just having a degree won't get you a job. The MBA is supposed to be a tool for those with work experience who have the natural skills to be management material, it is not meant as a certificate to show you would be a good employee. If you got your MBA and still don't have a job almost 2 years later it is because you are lacking as a candidate. The old saying goes that a stupid person with a degree is still a stupid person, I suspect this is the case in your situation. Fact is there are good jobs out there - but the thing is they only go to the good candidates.

    Posted by JimboSlice January 16, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Congress makes up the tax laws, not the IRS.

    Posted by Irwin R. Shister January 16, 09 04:04 PM
  1. Heading back to school is NOT the answer. Don't waste money on some useless professional degree (unless RN or a trade). And God help anyone if they go to law school thinking it will improve their lot. STAY AWAY!!

    Posted by Anonymous January 16, 09 04:27 PM
  1. Stupid and unfair as the law might be, it is still the law until YOU decide to vote someone in with common sense. Yes, you can commect UI and go to school. If it is a state sponsored (UI) school, you can almost go indefinitely. You want and need to keep your mind sharp, so even going to a community college is a good and necessary thing. If you have an MBA and can't find a job, take a look in the mirror. Maybe you should work at a McDonalds instead of (trying to be) in charge of a business.

    Posted by anthony newman January 17, 09 04:26 AM
  1. Anonymous, If the O/P is going to be a nurse, why not aim for medical school?

    And what is wrong for education for education's sake?

    JimboSlice, That was a low blow at Neil. You know nothing about his situation. Angry much?

    Posted by reindeergirl January 17, 09 09:36 AM
  1. JimboSlice, I suspect the the only stupid one here is yourself.

    Neil, myself and my classmates were in your situation during Bush Downturn #1. It sucked. Keep your head up, the downturn, like the Bush era, will soon end.

    Posted by Bob January 17, 09 12:32 PM
  1. Not only is collecting unemployment benefits your entitlement under law, your employer has already paid in advance to cover the payments to you. Think of it as part of your total compensation package. It's insurance--for which premiums were paid, and now you are making a valid claim. Unemployment is NOT welfare.

    Posted by Old Poor Richard January 17, 09 01:07 PM
  1. Folks, no more insults please. Keep your posts on topic and free of personal attacks.

    Posted by Jesse Nunes, January 17, 09 04:39 PM
  1. Unemployed from a GOOD trade (with ten years experience) in the early 90's went to college for five years and got an Engineering Degree. It was a long hard road but well worth it after another ten years in the profession. I'm employed and there is no end in sight for work.

    Posted by Anonymous January 18, 09 12:48 PM
  1. Reindeer Girl:
    nursing is an incredibly profession and nurses are SO needed right now!
    also, if you already have a bachelor's degree, you can get a BSN in as little as 18 months, depending on the program you find. why wouldn't an unemployed person want to be a nurse rather than "aiming for medical school?" nursing is just as respectable and you can actually make just as much money as some types of physicians.

    Posted by nursing_student January 18, 09 06:07 PM
  1. I'm not sure how I could save 25% of my unemployment check to pay taxes when as it stands my check only covers about half of my mortgage payment. Most people aren't able to "save" anything when they are on unemployment because it only gives you a fraction of what you need to survive. My advice is not to worry about paying taxes...most likely you won't be paying much or any if you stay unemployed for a long time (your tax bracket will be very low, certainly not anywhere near 25%), and if you do get a job then you should be able to afford to pay 25% of the meager amount you got from unemployment.

    Posted by StarboardLean January 19, 09 11:59 AM
  1. Taxing un-employment doesn't make sense. Ronald Regan put the law into effect to help balance Ithe budget ! Write you lawmaker for a change, with quality of jobs going downhill you have the power. I think that 42% of Americans
    live paycheck to paycheck!

    Posted by david January 20, 09 09:29 AM
  1. I have been an R,N, for 19 years and I started a job at a new hospital and was laid off ..I cannot find a job. Mass. hospitals are having reezes on hiring and the rest of the country is very bad for R.N.'s do not go into nursing...there are new grads who have been out for 2 years that still cannot find a job...all industries have been hit.

    Posted by caroline February 4, 09 09:17 PM
  1. I live in KS, and was recently layed off from Sprint. I can collect unemployment while I'm in school because I was apart of a mass layoff. I qualify for the Workforce Act Investment (WIA), which pays for schooling in areas where there is not enough man power to fill the jobs. The government has set aside stimulus (excuse my spelling, no SPELL CHECK) money for those of us hit by mass layoffs. I have a grant of 4000 to pay for my degree. I'll have to pay 1000 out of pocket, but I still can go to school and collect my unemployment.

    Posted by Chris June 22, 09 11:51 AM
  1. I live in Indiana and I just entered Purdue University,I have been unemployed for 8 mo. now I am recieving unemployment for the last 8 mo.They will continue to pay for 1 and 1/2 yrs.They paid for all books and supplies...There are no jobs here at all.People this is scary

    Posted by Rebecca September 13, 09 02:56 PM

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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.

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