Claiming Benefits for Unemployment in Massachusetts
After unemployment petitioners apply for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) sends a request to all employers listed on the claim form for information regarding past wages and reasons for employee termination. Each employer has 10 days to respond. If the employer does not respond within 10 days, the DUA may contact the applicant or the employer again for any missing wage information.
Once the employee wage and termination information is complete, DUA calculates the amount of benefits the applicant will receive and how long the applicant will be eligible to receive them. Once the claimant has applied for federal unemployment benefits, he or she must continue to request benefits every week the claimant is unemployed or working reduced hours. If eligible, the applicant will receive payments for the weeks that were previously claimed, except for the one-week waiting period. If the claimant does not request benefits while the claim is being processed, he or she may not be eligible to receive benefits for those weeks. If there are no issues with the claim, DUA will issue the first benefit payment in three to four weeks.
Unemployment Benefits Claim Calculation in Massachusetts
With the MA unemployment benefits claim, the amount of benefits the applicant is eligible to receive each week is called the “weekly benefit amount.” This weekly benefit amount is calculated at 50 percent of the applicant’s average weekly wage that was received during their “base period.” The weekly benefit amount cannot exceed the maximum amount allowed by law, which is currently set at $722 per week.
Unemployment applicants can calculate their weekly benefit amount as follows:
1) List your total wages for the last four quarters in which you worked.
2) Take the sum of the two highest paid quarters.
3) Divide the sum of the two highest paid quarters by 26 (the number of weeks in the combined quarters). This number will be your average weekly wage. Note that if you worked less than two quarters, then you should divide the highest wage quarter by 13 weeks to determine your average weekly wage.
4) Take the weekly wage from Step 3 and divide it in half to determine your weekly unemployment benefit amount.
The total amount of federal unemployment benefits one can receive in their benefit year is called the “maximum benefit amount.” This amount is the lesser of either 30 times the weekly benefit amount or 36 percent of the total wages in the base period. For the unemployment benefits claim, the length of time one can receive benefits for is determined by dividing the maximum benefit amount by the weekly benefit amount. However, the maximum number of weeks a claimant can receive full benefits for is 30 weeks (capped at 26 weeks during periods of an unemployment benefits extension).
If the MA federal unemployment benefits recipient works part-time during the weeks in which he or she has requested UI benefits, the recipient may still be paid benefits if his or her gross wages are less than their weekly benefit amount. Any wages above one-third of the weekly benefit amount are deducted dollar-for-dollar from the weekly benefit amount.
The law requires that child support payments be deducted from unemployment benefits when the DUA has received a withholding order from a Child Support Enforcement Agency charged with administering Part D of Title IV of the Social Security Act.
Massachusetts federal unemployment benefits are taxable. Unemployment beneficiaries can elect to have federal and/or state income taxes withheld from their weekly benefit payment by making a request online or by calling TeleCert. Beneficiaries may be required to make quarterly estimated payments to federal and state income taxes. The DUA will send the unemployment recipient a 1099 form by January 31 the year after they were paid UI benefits.
Unemployment Benefits Extension in Massachusetts
After filing an initial unemployment benefits claim, the applicant must request to renew benefits every week. Unemployment benefits renewal may be requested online or by calling the DUA TeleCert line.
Once the former worker has applied for federal unemployment benefits, they must request benefits for each week during which they are in partial or total unemployment. Sunday is the first day on which they can request benefits for the prior week. If they do not request benefits for two weeks in a row, they may reactivate their claim online or by calling TeleCert, or the TeleClaim Center.
Once unemployment petitioners claim unemployment benefits in MA, they must report any gross wages for work performed that week. Unemployment beneficiaries are required to report all wages earned for the week in which it is earned, even if they have not been paid yet. Beneficiaries that are reporting self-employed wages should report net, not gross wages. Types of income that must be reported and may be deductible from UI benefits include severance pay, vacation pay, pensions, and company buy-out payments. Social Security benefits are not to be reported.
If the applicant has filed an unemployment benefits claim online, then he or she will receive a confirmation screen when the request is completed. If the applicant is using the TeleCert system, he or she will hear a confirmation message when the request is complete. Both methods can also be employed if the claimant wishes to set up, change or cancel “direct deposit.” The claimant’s nine-digit bank routing number and bank account number are required for direct deposit enrollment. There is a nine business day account verification period between the day applicants sign up for direct deposit and the day that UI benefits can be sent directly to their bank.
The unemployment beneficiary’s other option is to have his or her federal unemployment benefits issued through a DUA Debit MasterCard. No credit check or bank account is required for this option. In this case, UI benefit payments are automatically deposited onto the card and the card can be used to make purchases.