COVID-19: State Rep. Robertson Provides Update On Unemployment, Small Business Assistance & Education

Below is a press release from State Representative David Robertson’s Office:

BOSOTN, MA — Massachusetts is now the focus of national attention, as we are entering the roughest time in terms of diagnoses and outlook. Thanks to the public’s attention and cooperation in spacing ourselves apart, the impact COVID-19 was expected to have on our community will not be as severe as initially CDC projections showed, but we cannot let our guard down now. Much like your individuals action to help limit the viral damage the respective levels of government have also been at work mitigating the health and economic damage caused. This fourth update, like those before, is general but provides critical information that you may need to know. As always, those with specific questions should not hesitate to reach out for clarification or assistance.

Unemployment

One of the largest concerns for all of us was the implementation of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, known as FPUC/PUA. This is part of the federal governments response to expand unemployment insurance benefits to those who did not pay into the traditional system administered by the state. You should apply if you were denied for traditional benefits, and are, but are not limited to the following categories:

  • Independent Contractors/Gig Workers

  • Self-employed

  • Those scheduled to start work but had not yet/between jobs with a confirmed/delayed start date

  • Those who had to quit/reduce hours as childcare centers closed

  • Those quarantined with suspected or confirmed symptoms, or family members who require care

For those who fall into those categories but have only lost partial income due to the COVID outbreak please still apply. A good rule of thumb for partial loss of income qualification, be it applying to traditional UI or FPUC/PUA, is a reduction of 25% to 30% of your income. This is not universally applicable to every case and you may qualify with less. FPUC recipients will receive the same as traditional unemployment insurance, with a maximum state contribution of $823 dollars a week plus the $600 dollars a week from the federal government. Your weekly state portion will be determined by formula from the following documents you will need to provide, including W2’s, 1099 forms, bank statements, or pay stubs depending on your business and the legal manner which your business was created. You may apply at an separate application at www.UI-CARES-act.mass.gov/PUA. Please make sure you are not accidentally applying for traditional unemployment benefits. You should also not apply for FPUC and traditional unemployment simultaneously, as it will cause an issue with both your claims. To help you determine if you should first claim traditional benefits or the new FPUC/PUA you should first apply to traditional benefits if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Did you earn more than $5100.00 in 2019 working for an employer who took taxes out of your paycheck?
  • Did you earn more than $5100.00 in 2019 working for the Federal government or in the military?
  • Are you eligible for, or receiving, benefits from other unemployment insurance programs such as regular unemployment benefits, Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA), Disaster Unemployment Assistance from a prior natural disaster, or WorkShare benefits?
  • Did you work in another state in addition to working in Massachusetts in 2019?
  • If you filed a claim for unemployment assistance in the past 52 weeks, did you return to work or stop collecting benefits before you claimed all the available benefits on that claim?

To continue addressing the backlog of unemployment issues, the state has now 850 members and is continuing to redirect staff from shuttered state agencies to assist with claims processing. A common problem that we have encountered is people sending the call to Voicemail as it is an unknown number. Though we all hate spam calls, I implore everyone with an outstanding claimant issue to pick up the phone as these folks are working quickly due to volume. Massachusetts has now broken more than 500,000 claims, and again we appreciate everyone’s patience in processing.

Education

Governor Baker also continued the suspension of schools to either the chagrin or celebration of parents across the Commonwealth. Neither public nor private schools will convene for the rest of the school year, and childcare is suspended currently until June 29th. Medical care professionals, first responders, and other essential emergency personal will still be allowed to drop their children off at designated child care agencies, and the state will continue to provide support to shuttered or closed schools to ensure they may reopen to continue watching your child following the conclusion of this outbreak. Special residential schools, homes, and other facilities supporting medically complex individuals are exempt from this closure and will continue operating. As mentioned in last weeks update, MCAS has been canceled and school reporting requirements have been extended. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are working to address Remote Learning issues, and have also launched a partnership with Care.com to provide resources and material for those whose children are subject to an IEP or 504.

Small Business Assistance

After concluding a debate over the inclusion of hospital funding and medical supply support in the most recent federal relief package – the SBA’s PPP program will receive an additional $310 billion in loans. Interested small business owners should not wait for money to be released to begin their application, but should immediately reach out to their banking agent. For those who have accounts with a bank that does not offer PPP, or for those who are encountering issues with non-responsiveness or similar PPP issues at their lender please reach out to my office, as we have cultivated relationships with banks who can assist. For those not receiving quality local assistance we have escalated issues beyond local branches to help process applications quickly and accurately through other contacts within your bank.

As always, no matter how silly or serious you feel your question may be please do not hesitate to reach out. My office is still fully functional – albeit remotely, and we stand ready to serve you. As always, be safe and well.

Sincerely,

Representative Robertson
617-722-2210
david.robertson@mahouse.gov

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