unemployment benefits

Getting Unemployment Benefits Still a Struggle in Massachusetts

More than 650,000 COVID-19-related unemployment claims have been filed in the Bay State

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Unemployment claims continue to swell in Massachusetts, just as the state's trust fund is running out of money to cover benefits.

Cheryl O'Connor spent a month trying to get approved for unemployment benefits.

"I've never had to file for unemployment, so this is new to me," O'Connor said. "I didn't know if I entered something in wrong. I needed guidance. I called them, tried emailing them, no response."

John Jasset said his additional weekly benefits under the CARES Act have been sporadic.

"Originally, I was approved for the initial unemployment, and then it was four weeks before I got the extra $600," Jasset said. It's difficult to pay your bills when you don't know when it's coming."

NBC10 Boston Responds reached out to the Department of Unemployment Assistance to find out how people can get help with their applications and answers to their questions. They declined an interview, but said they are: "…focused on supporting workers through these challenging times and continue to process new claims as quickly as possible…the department continues to prioritize efforts to process claims through the online system and by phone…"

Governor Charlie Baker said that staffers are taking 20,000 individual calls a day to keep up with demand.

To date, more than 650,000 COVID-19 related unemployment claims have been filed in Massachusetts. Gov. Charlie Baker said last week nearly 1,000 new employees are working remotely to help meet the increased demand with claims.

"They've been working 7 days a week since this started to get people processed and get them benefits as quickly as they can," Baker said.

The DUA said call center hours have been expanded to Saturday and that staff is working outside of normal business hours, even into the evenings to meet the needs of those filing claims.

Additionally, the department has created a new COVID-19 workforce specific web page that includes the latest guidance for employee qualifications and additional resources, including a COVID-19 specific unemployment claim handbook.

Jassett said he would like to see more information coming through social media as well.

"This is all new to everybody. The biggest thing I would say is, just give people more information. I'm sure they all see social media. Everyone is posting all their concerns, complaints. Try to answer them," Jasset said.

The state’s unemployment insurance trust fund balance has dropped by more than half, amid record levels of applications. The governor has asked the federal government for a $1.2 billion loan to cover unemployment benefits through the end of June.

For more information about obtaining employment benefits, go to the state's website.

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