COVID-19 & Unemployment Benefits

COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits

Contact the Department of Unemployment and apply for unemployment insurance (UI) right away if:

  • Your employer shut down because of the coronavirus.
  • Your employer reduced your work hours for any reason, including the coronavirus.
  • Your employer has laid you off temporarily and said you can return when business picks up.
  • You have been quarantined by a medical professional, government order or your employer, and your employer:
    • told you to return after the period of quarantine, or
    • has not told you anything.
  • Your employer, medical professional or government order told you to "self-quarantine."
  • You have to be home to care for a family or household member who has been quarantined or who is sick.
  • You left work and you are "self-quaranting" because you reasonably believe that you have a risk of exposure or infection.
  • You left work because your child’s school or child care center has closed.

If the DUA approves your UI application and it is possible that you will return to your work after the coronavirus pandemic dies down, stay in touch with your employer.

You do not need to provide medical documentation.

If you miss a UI deadline because of the coronavirus or its effects, you will be excused for missing the deadline. But pay attention to all communications from the Department of Unemployment Assistance so you can avoid any problems or delays in getting UI.

How much money do I need to have earned to apply for UI?

You need to have earned $5,100 in the past year.

How do I apply?

File a claim with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA)’s UI Online .

UI Online is available daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Applying through UI Online is the fastest way to get UI benefits. But the website is only in English.

If you have trouble completing the application online, ask for help by filling out the COVID-19: Department of Unemployment Assistance Contact Request form.

For more information and updates about UI and COVID-19, see the DUA's website: Mass.gov/DUA

You can apply by telephone by calling 617-626-6800 or 877-626-6800 outside the 617 area code. There are dedicated phone lines for individuals who speak Spanish and Portuguese.

How much UI will I get?

You will get about half your average weekly wage. The maximum amount of UI is $823 per week. You can also get $25 per week for each dependent child up to the amount that is half your UI check.

How long will I get UI?

The maximum number of weeks now is 26 weeks. But the amount you earned the year before you apply affects the length of time you can get UI.

The number of weeks may increase if the economy gets worse.

If you have been unemployed for a few weeks and your employer did not tell you to apply for UI, you can get UI benefits for the weeks you missed. Be sure to note in the UI Online system when you first became unemployed.

If you are still working but your hours are reduced, you may be able to collect some UI.

For example

If your UI benefit is $300 weekly.

You can earn $100 weekly and you will not lose any of your UI benefit.

Once you earn more than that, your UI benefit decreases with each dollar of earnings.

Non-citizens

If you are a non-citizen with work authorization you can apply for UI.

Getting UI does not count as a public charge.

You will have to provide your Social Security Number and your work authorization card.

Save your time off!

If you are getting paid sick leave, you cannot get UI at the same time. But you do not need to use up all your sick time, vacation time, personal time, before you collect UI.

Remember to apply for other benefits too

See: SNAP Food Assistance - Workers who lost hours or job due to COVID-19

More information

See the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance webpages COVID-19 unemployment information

Updated: 

March 23, 2020

Author: 

Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute