Massachusetts Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Take a closer look at unemployment insurance in the state of Massachusetts. Determine if you qualify to receive benefits and how much you can receive.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) administers unemployment assistance and benefits in the state of Massachusetts. If you're a resident of Massachusetts and have recently experienced unemployment through no direct fault of your own, you may qualify to receive temporary benefits while you procure new employment. Read on to learn more.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Massachusetts?

Most workers in Massachusetts are covered by the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, although not all may qualify to receive benefits. When you first apply for unemployment insurance, your initial eligibility for benefits is based solely upon your earnings and the reason you left your job. Another important determining factor is whether or not you're available and able to work and are actively seeking new employment.

To qualify for benefits, you must: 

  1. Have earned either a bare minimum of $5,700 during the last 4 calendar quarters or 30 times the weekly benefit amount (WBA) you'd qualify for.
  2. Be legally authorized to work in the United States.
  3. Be either unemployed or working significantly fewer hours due to reasons for which you are not at fault.
  4. Be willing and able to work if suitable new employment opportunities should present themselves.

Weekly Requirements for Maintaining Eligibility

To continue to qualify for benefits, you must provide proof of your job search efforts and progress on a weekly basis. The state of Massachusetts requires a minimum of three work search attempts per week, for which you are responsible for keeping accurate records of. You may also be asked to register with a local Career Center to attend mandatory seminars.

How Do You Apply for Massachusetts Unemployment Benefits?

To apply for unemployment benefits, you must have the following information read:

  • Your personal information including your Social Security number, date of birth, home address and contact information such as email address and phone number.
  • Detailed information about your previous employment history over the past 15 months, including names, addresses and contact information of previous employers, your reasons for leaving them, work start and end dates and, if applicable, recall date.
  • Information related to your dependents. If you have children, be sure to also have their birth dates and Social Security numbers handy; if you're the major financial supporter of a child, you may be eligible for an additional weekly allowance of $25 per child. 
  • Recent military history. If you are in a union or served in the military over the past 15 months, be sure to also have information regarding these as well, such as your union's name and local number or your DD-214 Member 4 Form. 

To file a claim online, you must create an account on the UI Online Portal. To file through the TeleClaim center, call (877) 626-6800 anytime between the hours of 8:30a and 4:30p Monday through Friday. 

You must request benefits for every week that you are unemployed. Alongside this, you must report at least three job search efforts per week to track your progress in finding new employment. 

How Much Do You Get From Massachusetts Unemployment?

If you qualify for these benefits, the DUA will receive your claim and send you a Money Determination letter outlining how much you could potentially receive. You will receive a WBA of up to 50% of your average weekly wage. (Of course, it must also be in accordance with the maximum set by law. As of October 3, 2021, the maximum WBA any individual can receive is $974 a week.)

The exact amount you receive is dependent upon the wages you earned during either a primary or alternate base period. 

  • The primary base period consists of the last four completed calendar quarters (or 12 months) of employment prior to the date your claim was first processed. 
  • The alternate base period is the last three completed calendar quarters (or 9 months) and the period of time between your most recently completed quarter and the effective date of your claim. 

An alternate base period can only be used to calculate your benefit amounts if you don't meet requirements for qualification based off of the primary base period or if using the alternate base period will increase your maximum WBA by 10% or more. 

You will receive benefit payments via a bank debit card unless you set up direct deposit with your own savings or checking account. 

Benefit Year

Once your claim is established and benefits are approved, they will remain valid for a period of 52 consecutive weeks. This period is called a benefit year. Your maximum benefit credit will be available to you throughout the duration of your benefit year — or until you have exhausted your benefit credits. Once your benefit year expires, any balance of benefits credits will no longer be accessible to you. 

What Happens If Unemployment Claims in Massachusetts Are Denied?

Unemployment insurance claims can be denied for a variety of reasons in the state of Massachusetts. You may be considered not eligible if your only source of employment is from working as:

  • An employee of a non-profit or religious institution.
  • A student in a work-study program.
  • A work trainee in a program run by a non-profit or public organization.
  • A consultant working independently.
  • A commission-based insurance agent or real estate broker.
  • An elected government official in a legislative or judiciary position, or any other policy-making or advisory position.

If you disagree with the result of your Determination Notice, you can file an appeal with the DUA to dispute the results. You simply must complete and return the Wage and Employer Correction sheet that gets mailed to you along with the Determination Notice. The DUA will review and make any necessary adjustments pending a hearing where you have the right to representation and you can make your case for receiving benefits with supporting documents.

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