The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance has begun paying out a proposed $300 boost to unemployment benefits.
State officials announced last month that Massachusetts residents who are unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic would be able to receive up to an additional $900 in aid thanks to a federal grant award.
Here's what you need to know about the expanded benefits:
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Who is eligible?
Trump signed an executive order in August making $300 a week in enhanced unemployment insurance benefits available to unemployed workers, paying for the benefit from a $44 billion fund set aside for disaster relief. The enhanced benefit program replaced the $600 in additional weekly benefits that had been available through the Cares Act when Congress couldn't come together to extend the program.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a Massachusetts application for money through the Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance program, funding the 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.
When will I receive my money?
Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday that the state 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."
Next week, Baker said, those eligible will automatically get two more weeks of the enhanced benefits deposited into their accounts, while unemployed workers eligible under the more traditional unemployment benefits system will be begin to receive their retroactive enhanced benefits in the next few days.
Will there be another round?
Right now, the program is set to expire unless the federal government approves additional funds.
Baker called on Democrats and Republicans in Washington to step up to help states support workers and pay for other government services.
"People in both parties need to come together to make this happen, sometime soon," Baker said Thursday. "It's the right thing to do for workers who lost their jobs because of the measures many of us took to stop the spread of COVID-19 and it's critically important to ensuring that state and local governments can continue to support their communities as they work their way through the rest of this pandemic."
Congress has been deadlocked over how to move forward on the next coronavirus relief package.
The Democrat-led House has passed more than $3 trillion in stimulus spending that includes $500 billion for state and local governments, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday introduced a slimmed down version that proposed to spend $500 billion in total on small businesses, enhanced unemployment insurance, child care, the post office, coronavirus testing and schools.
State House News Service contributed to this report.