The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Response to COVID-19

Arent Fox

Arent Fox

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment (DUA) has taken steps to streamline the process for securing unemployment benefits in light of increased demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the impact of COVID-19 is felt on businesses throughout the Commonwealth, the DUA has done the following:

  • Updated its website to include links to the online filing portal, which is the quickest way to file a successful unemployment claim;
  • Provided a link to the unemployment contact form, which puts applicants in touch with a DUA officer; and
  • Issued a new handbook for unemployment claims made after March 15, 2020.

The handbook provides step-by-step instructions for filing a claim for unemployment benefits online and other key guidance on the application process. For example:

  • Employees may be eligible for an earlier begin date of benefits if their hours were reduced from their regular schedule in the week before their termination date;
  • If the applicant is filing a claim due to the COVID-19 emergency, the reason for separation should be listed as “Layoff;” and
  • If the applicant is filing a claim due to the COVID-19 emergency, the only requirement for the work search activity log is that he/she notify the DUA if their address or telephone number changes.

Additionally, pursuant to Governor Baker’s bill (S. 2599), which was signed into law on March 18, 2020, the one week waiting period for any person to make a claim for unemployment has been waived for those employees who have lost work as a result of COVID-19.

Employers and employees should take advantage of the resources available on the DUA website as an important resource in these unprecedented times. Employers who must terminate employees due to the COVID-19 emergency should consider directing employees to the DUA website and providing them with a copy of the DUA handbook, in addition to the mandatory DUA notice required upon separation.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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