DiDomenico, Senate Colleagues Pass Bill Addressing Unemployment Insurance

Sen. Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation that will provide additional Unem­ployment Insurance (UI) relief to low-income fami­lies, non-profit institutions and employers.

•An Act Providing Ad­ditional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System builds on UI legis­lation passed by the Senate and signed into law waiv­ing the one-week waiting period to receive bene­fits. It also follows the pas­sage last week of the feder­al Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which sig­nificantly increases UI ben­efits and expands eligibility during the coronavirus pan­demic.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic is without ques­tion a public health emer­gency, this is of course already having severe financial consequences for our Commonwealth’s working families, small businesses, and nonprofit community,” said Senator DiDomenico. “My col­leagues in the Senate and I remain fully committed to addressing the short-term and long-term needs of all our residents as this crisis continues to unfold, and I am proud of the action we have taken with this bill to provide relief for our work­ers during these trying and unprecedented times.”

“The Senate remains fo­cused on taking quick ac­tion to help our workers, and this bipartisan bill is the latest in our series of efforts to do so,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “We are fac­ing a unique situation, but we are taking steps to en­sure that Massachusetts workers and employers can maximize the benefits available to them through both state and federal ac­tions as this pandemic un­folds.”

Building off the Sen­ate’s ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its impacts on workers, the bill includes four components to enhance the state’s UI system:

•Uncapping the UI de­pendency allotment;

•Extending the grace pe­riod for non-profit contribu­tions;

•Protecting employers from increased UI costs due to coronavirus; and

•Ensuring 30 weeks of unemployment compensa­tion during unemployment spikes.

The components of the bill are as follows:

•Lifting the Cap on De­pendency Allotment. This bill eliminates the 50% cap for the dependency allot­ment providing addition­al benefits to low-income families. This increase will be in addition to the $600 per week benefit add-on provided for in the CARES Act for all workers eligible for state or federal benefits.

Currently, UI recipients are entitled to an addition­al $25 per week for each child in the family, capped at 50% of a recipient’s base allotment. The result is that workers with particularly low allotments, such as low wage workers, can easily be capped out of receiving these additional amounts.

•Non-Profit Contribution Grace Period. Presently, many non-profits self-in­sure for unemployment claims. This means that when layoffs in the sector occur, non-profits pay the cost of those benefits dol­lar for dollar at the next billing period. This bill provides a 120-day grace period for non-profits to make these contributions. This delay will allow the state to review additional changes that are warranted to mitigate the impact on non-profits. The CARES Act provides 50% reim­bursement for self-insured benefit payments during the Coronavirus crisis.

•Protection for Em­ployers. Employers who participate in UI pay con­tributions based on their layoff experience. Like oth­er forms of insurance, em­ployers that are more likely to have workers use unem­ployment compensation are asked to pay more in the system. The system does not anticipate a situation where employers across a number of sectors have been forced to significantly reduce their workforces due to situations outside of their control. This bill prevents layoffs related to coronavi­rus from negatively impact­ing employer’s future UI contributions.

•Extending Unemploy­ment Benefit Period. The number of weeks of un­employment compensation available in Massachusetts is tied to unemployment rates around the state. This trigger did not anticipate a situation, however, in which unemployment grows rap­idly in a very short period of time. This bill ensures that the 30-week benefit period is triggered by a sig­nificant uptick in weekly unemployment claims.

•An Act Providing Ad­ditional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consid­eration.

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