BOSTON (CBS) — Nearly two weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief package that included boosting support for millions who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Now Gov. Charlie Baker says unemployment recipients in Massachusetts should start seeing extra money in their benefits.
“As of today, all eligible claimants will receive an additional $600 on top of their normal weekly benefit,” Baker said at a Thursday news conference.
Nearly 470,000 people in Massachusetts have filed new unemployment claims in the last three weeks.
“To put that number in context, typically in Massachusetts, over the course of the past six or seven months, we would get roughly seven to 10,000 new claims a month,” Baker said. “These numbers obviously are staggering.”
Right now the state’s Department of Unemployment Assistance is paying benefits to 250,000 people, but Baker acknowledged that many more are still frustrated they can’t get their application processed. He said the state has boosted call center staffing from 50 people to 600 in recent weeks.
People applying for new unemployment claims or those who are already receiving benefits don’t need to take any action to receive the extra $600. It is retroactive to March 29 and will continue until the end of July.
Baker also offered an update on the expansion of benefits to those who are not traditionally in the unemployment system, such as self-employed workers, consultants who receive 1099 forms and “gig economy” employees. He said the state is working with a vendor to build a platform to disperse those benefits and expects to begin processing claims by the end of the month.
Massachusetts is still waiting for federal guidance on how to implement a 13-week extension for people who have exhausted previous unemployment benefits, Baker said.
“I think we know this is frustrating for many, many people in Massachusetts. People have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are trying hard to access fund that they need to get by,” he said. “In the new federal CARES Act those benefits haven’t been able to be made available as quickly as any of us would like.”