The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance has begun distributing a proposed $300 boost to unemployment benefits.
State officials announced last month that Massachusetts residents who are unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to receive up to an additional $900 in aid thanks to a federal grant award.
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a Massachusetts application for money through the Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance program, funding an extra $300 weekly payment for those who are eligible for at least $100 in weekly unemployment benefits for the weeks ending Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15. An additional application for the week ending Aug. 22 was also submitted to FEMA.
Both those on standard unemployment insurance and on the expanded eligibility Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program -- which covers gig workers and others who normally cannot access benefits -- will receive the additional payments if they qualified for aid, according to a spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday that the Department of Unemployment Assistance started distributing supplemental payments for the first round of retroactive unemployment benefits last week. The next round of payouts will begin next week.
Most eligible claimants currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action because the state will automatically add the funds to their weekly benefit payment retroactive to the dates specified in the grant.
Baker said over $200 million dollars has already been distributed, and that number will grow next week.
"Massachusetts was quickly able to install software to stand this up and make this work," he said. "It's an important step in making sure we sustain supplemental relief for people who were out of work."
But the governor said this round of unemployment assistance is still just a diversion from Federal Emergency Management Agency funds and urged the federal government to pass a longer-term COVID relief package.
"It's important for Washington to step up and do what it said it was going to do last summer -- implement a COVID-19 relief package that supports a more long-term unemployment program," Baker said. "People in both parties need to come together to make this happen sometime soon. It's the right thing to do for workers who lost jobs, and it's critically important to ensuring state and local governments can continue to support their constituents."