Unemployment insurance (UI) provides benefits to Massachusetts worker’s who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Unemployment insurance is a temporary income protection program for workers who have lost their job, and who are able to work, available for work, and looking for employment.
1.) An individual benefits from unemployment insurance is a weekly check. The weekly benefit is about fifty percent of the individual’s average weekly wage, up to the maximum set by state law. The state law maximum benefit rate as of now is $600 a week.
2.) Help with health insurance. The Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) provides health insurance assistance through the Medical Security Program. This is for residents of Massachusetts who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Massachusetts is the only state in the nation to offer a health care plan for unemployment insurance claimants. For an individual to be eligible for the Medical Security program they must fulfill the following requirements;
- they must be receiving unemployment benefits from MA,
- The unemployment benefits must be based (at least in part) on earnings from a MA employer
- The individual must be a MA resident.
- The individual must also meet the income eligibility guidelines. This being the total family income for six months prior to the date they apply for the Medical Security Program coverage plus the individuals projected income for the next six months is required to be less than the amount shown in the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines chart.
It should be noted that the total family income doesn’t include the income of dependent children.
3.) The Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance provides opportunities to individuals to acquire training in order to be re-employed. In section 30 of the Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance law it allows the DUA to waive an active work search by claimants who meet certain eligibility requirements. Claimants can continue to collect their UI benefits while in approved training. Under certain circumstances the individual may be eligible for up to an additional 18 weeks of UI benefits while they are attending full-time training. In order to potentially be eligible for the 18 week extension the individual must apply to the DUA by the 15th paid week of UI benefits. It is reminded to individuals that they choose the training program that is best for them and that will help find employment in their new occupation. It is crucial that the individual completes the application and has it submitted to the DUA by the 15th paid week of unemployment insurance benefits.
4.) The DUA offers a Re-Employment Services Program. This is for individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits and are unlikely to return to their former job or occupation. This program is intended to identify the individuals who are likely to face a long-term employment. Based on information provided to the DUA by the former employer and the individual the DUA will determine if they meet the criteria. If the individual has been permanently laid-off within a week or two the individual may receive a letter scheduling them to attend a Re-Employment Options Seminar, which will give the individual information on the services available to them. The primary focus of the Re-Employment Options Seminar is to help the individual in mapping out their re-employment plan. The individual will fill out a career map inventory to help identify job search services that can help them. They will also complete an activity worksheet that lists a variety of activities to help the individual meet the needs identified by the career map inventory. The individual will also have an opportunity to work one-on-one to develop their “core program”, their career map activity plan. This includes the key activities that are mandatory for them to accomplish, based on the results of career map inventory and tailored to their needs. The individual will be required to keep track of the activities they have accomplished by completing the work search and re-employment activity log. If the individual is still unemployed after six weeks after they have attended the Re-Employment Seminar, they will have a status review interview. During this session, their work search and re-employment log will be reviewed to verify that their plan is on target. They will also learn about other services and activities that might interest of help the individual. Services include; job search workshops, assistance with writing their resume, improving their interviewing skills, and access to a computer base of job listings, both local and national job openings and training programs in their area.
5.) If an individual is receiving unemployment insurance benefits they may also be eligible to receive food stamps. The individual doesn’t have to be receiving cash welfare in order to receive food stamps. When determining if an individual is eligible for food stamps the amount of benefits received depends on the number and ages of the people in their household. The Food Stamp Program also looks both at their household income and expenses when deciding if their household can get food stamps.
6.) An individual may also receive housing assistance with Massachusetts Housing Programs. The Department of Housing and Community Development offers programs, housing and funding to communities to serve those with low to moderate incomes. In order for the individual to be eligible they will have to visit the website and look at the eligibility requirements to see if they meet the requirements and can receive housing assistance.
7.) An individual may receive energy assistance. The Neighborhood Services Division of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development provides links to other agencies for things such as; heating bill assistance, heating system assistance, weatherization assistance, and other energy assistance programs such as; the Salvation Army, The United Way and Citizens Energy. In 2007, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will provide fuel assistance to low-income people with annual incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level or $41,300 for a family of four. Current benefits vary depending upon income levels. To find out exactly where an individual stands for eligibility regarding energy assistance it is recommended to view the Neighborhood Services Division’s website
8.) The DUA has links on their website to help an individual with managing their finances. The IRS recognizes that the loss of a job can create new tax situations for an individual so the following information is provided to clarify the tax implications. The IRS has information on their website for individuals who have questions regarding tax information after the loss of a job.
9.) The DUA has links for individuals to receive financial counseling in order to help manage their finances while they are receiving unemployment insurance benefits. If an individual has problems paying their bills, credit counseling can help them. The DUA says to make sure that the individual chooses a non-profit credit counseling agency. The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern New England offers such information as; tips for choosing a credit counseling agency, financial counseling, housing information, education finance counseling, and general financial information.
10.) The DUA offers Work Sharing Benefits. Work sharing benefits are based upon regular unemployment insurance benefits. There are several steps used to determine the individuals work sharing benefits. The DUA will determine your unemployment insurance benefit rate. This rate is the amount of benefits they would receive if they were totally employed. In order to do this, the DUA will need information on the individual’s earnings during the 15 months prior to them filing their claim. The earnings during the individuals two highest quarters will be added together and divided by 26 (the number of weeks in two quarters) to determine their average weekly wage. Their UI benefit rate is one-half of their average weekly wages. However the benefit rate can not exceed the maximum benefit rate set by law which is $600 a week. The individuals UI benefit rate is used to determine their Work Sharing benefits. The work sharing benefit is calculated using the percentage in reduction of the individuals working hours. If the working hours are reduced 20 percent, then the work sharing benefit is 20 percent of the individuals unemployment insurance benefit rate.