The federal CARES Act made provision for previously ineligible individuals to obtain unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (“PUA”). The program is administered by the state, but funded with federal money. It provides up to 39 weeks of assistance for qualifying individuals out of work because of a COVID-19 related reason.
Weekly benefits will equal approximately 50 percent of the individuals’ average weekly earnings. PUA recipients will also receive a weekly $600 payment, not linked to past income.
Individuals now likely to be eligible for benefits include 1099 self-employed individuals, individuals with a limited employment history, and employees of religious institutions exempt from traditional unemployment. A list of eligible individuals can be found here.
Until this week workers were unable to apply since a separate platform had to be created for this purpose. Eligible individuals can now apply at https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-pandemic-unemployment-assistance.
Workers will initially be paid retroactive to March 20, 2020 but may thereafter seek benefits back to January 27, 2020 if documentation supports their having been out of work for that long.