Announcements Government

Legislature Passes Bill to Provide Relief and Improve Access to Unemployment Benefits

From the office of Senator Joseph Boncore:

(Photo from The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
Senator Joe Boncore

The Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill on Thursday May 21, 2020, that will provide additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) relief to low-income families, non-profit institutions and employers.

An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System builds on UI legislation already signed into law that waived the one week waiting period to receive benefits.

“This bill takes all the right steps to protect workers, employers, and non-profit institutions,” said Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). “We know that public health crises have a disproportionate impact on lowincome families. Through this legislation, we can ensure continued access and availability of critical safety net resources to those most acutely experiencing financial hardship during this pandemic. I am proud to represent such a resilient district, and I know these expanded unemployment benefits will go a long way in supporting our community’s recovery.”

The components of the bill are as follows:

Protection for Employers. Employers who participate in UI pay contributions based on their layoff experience. Like other forms of insurance, employers that are more likely to have workers use unemployment compensation are asked to pay more in the system. The system does not anticipate a situation where employers across a number of sectors have been forced to significantly reduce their workforces due to situations outside of their control. This bill prevents layoffs related to coronavirus from negatively impacting employer’s future UI contributions.

Extending Unemployment Benefit Period. The number of weeks of unemployment compensation available in Massachusetts is tied to unemployment rates around the state. This trigger did not anticipate a situation, however, in which unemployment grows rapidly in a very short period of time. This bill ensures that the 30-week benefit period is triggered by a significant uptick in weekly unemployment claims.

Lifting the Cap on Dependency Allotment. This bill eliminates the 50% cap for the dependency allotment providing additional benefits to low-income families. This increase will be in addition to the $600 per week benefit add-on provided for in the CARES Act for all workers eligible for state or federal benefits. This provision is effective for 18 months after the end of COVID-19 emergency and the end of enhanced federal benefits.

Currently, UI recipients are entitled to an additional $25 per week for each child in the family, capped at 50% of a recipient’s base allotment. The result is that workers with particularly low allotments, such as low wage workers, can easily be capped out of receiving these additional amounts.

Non-Profit Contribution Grace Period. Presently, many non-profits self-insure for unemployment claims. This means that when layoffs in the sector occur, non-profits pay the cost of those benefits dollar for dollar at the next billing period. This bill provides a 120-day grace period for non-profits to make these contributions. This delay will allow the state to review additional changes that are warranted to mitigate the impact on non-profits. The CARES Act provides 50% reimbursement for self-insured benefit payments during the Coronavirus crisis.

An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System now moves to the governor for consideration.

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One Reply to “Legislature Passes Bill to Provide Relief and Improve Access to Unemployment Benefits

  1. Actually there is more than 1 insurance that you need to pay. Mass unemployment insurance is about 5 times the federal rate the last time I was privately employed. With record low unemployment in recent years, it seems that this program should have a pretty good buffer. My question is, what happened to all the money? My suspicition is, in Masachusetts, money at rest doesn’t stay at rest. Someone gets there hands on it.

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