Expanded unemployment benefits now available for ‘gig workers’

Monday update: Hospital reports another new case of COVID-19.

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An additional $600 for unemployment is about to run out. — Screenshot

Updated April 21

Massachusetts residents who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits are now able to apply for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, according to a press release Monday morning. 

This comes as the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is reporting a new confirmed case of COVID-19, bringing the Island’s total to 15.

To date, the hospital has collected samples for 263 tests for the coronavirus with 243 negative  and five tests pending results.

The hospital also has zero hospitalizations for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health, of those 15 confirmed cases, nine are female and six are male. Seven of the cases are aged 50-59 years old, three cases are 60-69 years old, two are 30-39 years old, two are 20-29 years old, and one is 20 years old or younger.

As Island cases increase, state numbers continue to rise. On Monday, state numbers were delayed as the DPH rolled out a new way of reporting. There were 1,566 new cases reported bringing the total confirmed cases up to nearly 40,000 statewide. There were 103 new deaths for a total of 1,809. According to the state data, 10 percent of the confirmed cases are hospitalized.

Under the PUA program, those who are unable to work because of COVID-19-related issues and receive a 1099 tax form, are self-employed, or work in the “gig economy” are eligible to receive up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits. 

The expanded unemployment benefits for “gig workers” is part of the CARES Act signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. In addition to unemployment benefits, claimants will also receive an additional $600 on top of whatever benefits they receive. Weekly benefits, including any increase to weekly benefit amounts, will be retroactive to Jan. 27 or whenever the applicant became unemployed due to COVID-19 related issues.

“As a commonwealth, we are committed to doing everything in our power, and moving as urgently as possible to get workers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis the benefits they deserve,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in the release. “With the implementation of this new federal benefit program, we can better support workers not normally covered by the unemployment system like those who are self-employed or work in the gig economy.”

To be eligible, individuals must self-certify that they are otherwise able and available to work, but are prevented from doing so due to COVID-19-related issues.

People able to telework or receive paid sick leave will not qualify, but people receiving paid sick leave for less than their customary work week may be eligible. Also, those working fewer hours, resulting in a loss of income due to COVID-19, who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for PUA.

All approved PUA applications will receive the minimum weekly benefit amount plus the additional $600 benefit. Once wages are verified on a workers application, weekly benefits may increase.

PUA benefits may not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit range for regular unemployment, which is $823 in Massachusetts. This does not include the additional $600 benefit.

Initially, the system can only pay benefits retroactively to the week ending March 14. Eligible workers will be able to certify for benefits, and will be able to request benefits retroactively to Jan. 27, if their dates of unemployment make them eligible, according to the release.

To apply individuals must provide:

  • Social Security number
  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services number if not a citizen of the United States
  • Wage records for 2019, which includes 1099 forms, pay stubs, or bank statements
  • Social security numbers and dates or birth for dependent children
  • If requesting direct deposit, bank account information and routing numbers

Visit mass.gov/pua for more information and to apply.

 

Updated to include new confirmed case on Island and to correct number of male and female cases. — Ed.