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COVID-19 & Unemployment Insurance Benefits


Author: Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Spanish version: here

COVID-19 and Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits

ALERT: The recent federal CARES law provides $600 additional unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and 13 extra weeks to everyone getting UI. It also provides UI to workers who are self-employed, independent contractors, used up UI, or earned too little to get regular UI. These benefits are not yet available and DUA is awaiting information from the federal government about when they will begin. If you are in one of these categories, you should wait to apply until DUA can process these claims. For more information and updates about UI and COVID-19, see the website for the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA):

Contact DUA and apply for unemployment insurance (UI) if:

  • Your employer shut down because of the coronavirus.

  • Your employer reduced your work hours for any reason, including the coronavirus.

  • Your employer has laid you off temporarily and said you can return when business picks up.

  • You have been quarantined by a medical professional, government order or your employer, and your employer:

  • told you to return after the period of quarantine, or

  • has not told you anything.

  • Your employer, medical professional or government order told you to "self-quarantine."

  • You have to be home to care for a family or household member who has been quarantined or who is sick.

  • You left work and you are "self-quarantined" because you reasonably believe that you have a risk of exposure or infection.

  • You left work because your child’s school or child care center has closed.

If the DUA approves your UI application and it is possible that you will return to your work after the coronavirus pandemic dies down, stay in touch with your employer.

You do not need to provide medical documentation.

If you miss a UI deadline because of the coronavirus or its effects, you will be excused for missing the deadline. But pay attention to all communications from the DUA so you can avoid any problems or delays in getting UI.

How much money do I need to have earned to apply for UI?

You need to have earned $5,100 in the past year.

How do I apply?

File a claim with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA)’s UI Online.

UI Online is available daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Applying through UI Online is the fastest way to get UI benefits. But the website is only in English.

If you have trouble completing the application online, ask for help by filling out the COVID-19: DUA Contact Request form. (*Because of the unprecedented rise in unemployment, DUA is experiencing backlogs – this remains the best way to contact DUA for help with your specific claim.)

You can apply by telephone by calling 617-626-6800 or 877-626-6800 outside the 617 area code. There are dedicated phone lines for individuals who speak Spanish and Portuguese.

How much UI will I get?

You will get about half your average weekly wage. The maximum amount of UI is $823 per week. You can also get $25 per week for each dependent child up to the amount that is half your UI check. Under the new federal law, you will also get an additional $600 in UI benefits from 3/27/2020 until 7/31/2020.

How long will I get UI?

The maximum number of weeks now is 26 weeks of state UI benefits + 13 weeks federal benefits for a maximum of 39 weeks. You may get fewer weeks depending on the amount of time you worked and how much you earned before you applied for UI.

The number of weeks may continue to increase if the economy gets worse.

If you have been unemployed for a few weeks and your employer did not tell you to apply for UI, you can get UI benefits for the weeks you missed. Be sure to note in the UI Online system when you first became unemployed.

If you are still working but your hours are reduced, you may be able to collect some UI. You will also be eligible for an additional $600 for any weeks you are getting partial UI benefits between 3/27/2020 until 7/31/2020.

For example

If your UI benefit is $300 weekly.

  • You can earn $100 weekly and you will not lose any of your UI benefit.

  • Once you earn more than that, your UI benefit decreases with each dollar of earnings.

  • Plus, you now will get an additional $600 a week between 3/27/20 and 7/31/2020.

Who are the workers who can now get UI benefits for the first time?

A new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance law provides UI benefits to the following workers who are not working for COVID-19 related reasons.

These workers include:

  • self-employed workers

  • independent contractors

  • workers who didn’t work long enough (generally at least 15 weeks) in the prior year to get state UI

  • workers who didn’t earn at least $5,100 in the prior year and for this reason couldn’t get UI

The UI benefit will range from a minimum benefit of $267 a week to a maximum of $823 (plus $25 per child up to half the benefit amount).

These UI benefits are available for 39 weeks during the period of 1/27/2020 until 12/31/2020.

You will not get these UI benefits if you are getting paid sick leave, other paid leave benefits, or if you have the ability to telework with pay.

Do not apply until the start date is announced. Go to for updates.


If you are a non-citizen with work authorization you can apply for UI.

Getting UI does not count as a public charge.

You will have to provide your Social Security Number and your work authorization card.

Save your time off!

If you are getting paid sick leave, you cannot get UI at the same time. But you do not need to use up all your sick time, vacation time, personal time, before you collect UI.

Remember to apply for other benefits too

See: SNAP Food Assistance - Workers who lost hours or job due to COVID-19

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