What you need to know about changes to unemployment claims during the pandemic in Mass.

After the Baker administration filed emergency legislation on Sunday, employees whose workplaces have shut down will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker holds a press conference in the State House over new regulations to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker holds a press conference in the State House over new regulations to combat the spread of COVID-19. –Blake Nissen/ For The Boston Globe

On Sunday, Governor Charlie Baker announced a slew of emergency actions his administration will be taking to counter COVID-19, including steps to assist workers and employers.

Now, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will pay unemployment benefits to workers ordered to quarantine themselves or leave work because of risk, exposure, or infection.

People will also be paid if leaving work to care for a family member. 

While employees are still asked to work when able, they will not need to provide any medical documentation for their leave.

Current unemployment claims have also been altered. 

All requirements to attend seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended, deadlines missed during the pandemic will be excused under the DUA’s good cause provision, and all appeal hearings will be held over the phone. 

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Baker’s administration also filed emergency legislation that waives the week-long waiting period for unemployment benefits, allowing new claims to be quickly paid.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development is filing emergency regulations, too, allowing those impacted by the coronavirus to collect unemployment if their workplace is shut down but expects to reopen within four weeks. 

To be eligible for unemployment, workers need to keep in touch with their employer during the shutdown, and be available for any work their employer has that they are able to do.

Employers impacted by COVID-19 are able to request a 60-day grace period before filing quarterly reports and paying contributions.

If an employer extends the period of their covered shutdown, employees will remain eligible for their unemployment benefits. 

“Our administration is taking these rapid steps to protect the health and safety of our residents to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Baker said on Sunday. “With the steps we are taking today, we can ensure residents can still access key state services while taking necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

For more information, visit the Department of Unemployment Assistance website.


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