As many as 17,000 unemployed Massachusetts residents could become eligible for thousands of dollars in additional unemployment benefits under legislation the House and Senate on Monday passed to provide relief to residents who didn't initially qualify for the federal Lost Wages Assistance program.
The federal program ran in Massachusetts for six weeks from the end of July through the first week in September, but in order to qualify for the additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits a claimant had to be receiving at least $100 in weekly state benefits.
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The bill passed by the Legislature on Monday increased the minimum benefit for any unemployment insurance beneficiary to $100 for the week ending Aug. 1 through the week ending Sept. 5. The Senate Ways and Means Committee also included a directive for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce
Development to report back by the end of the year on how many people were newly deemed eligible for the expanded benefit and how much money was dispersed. It's unclear how much the change will cost the state, but sponsors have said it could help bring in $31 million in additional federal dollars for workers who were unemployed during the covered period.
Sen. Pat Jehlen, who filed one version of the bill along with her Labor Committee co-chair Rep. Stephan Hay, said for one of her constituents a state investment of $12 would yield nearly $2,000 in federal funds.
"Overall, state investment will bring an estimated 10-times return. This is thirty-one million dollars that people in Massachusetts can use for rent, for food, for other necessities. It will benefit them and local businesses. We can be absolutely sure they will spend it locally and immediately," Jehlen said.