BOSTON (CBS) — Workers in Massachusetts who are not typically part of the unemployment insurance system can now apply for CARES Act benefits if they’re unable to work because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday. That means self-employed workers, consultants who receive 1099 forms and “gig economy” employees can start receiving state benefits plus the $600 a week approved by the federal government for up to 39 weeks.
“Our folks have been working non-stop for the past two-and-a-half weeks since the bill was signed to create a platform and an application process and a payment process for these so-called self-employed contractor, gig economy employees,” Baker said in an interview with WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben.
The website to apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is www.mass.gov/pua. Applicants must show they are able to work but can’t because of the coronavirus.
“They should start applying because we do want to make sure that everybody has the resources they need during this very difficult period economically to be able to feed their families and pay their rent and their mortgages,” Baker said.
Heidi Julian owns her own dog walking business. With her clients now working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic – she hasn’t made any money in a month.
“I’m worried about when it will kick back up, the business will kick back up and whether the unemployment will actually come and all of those things because self-employed people haven’t been able to collect unemployment before,” Julian said.
She’s been checking the state’s website daily and said this is what she’s been waiting for. “I’m grateful they have included us in this package. I wish that it had come a little sooner for myself and for others. For now, I’ll just patiently wait until the check comes.”
The system will initially pay benefits retroactive to the week ending March 14, 2020. After April 30, workers can request benefits retroactive to Jan. 27 depending on when the coronavirus forced them out of work.
People who are receiving sick pay or other benefits that add up to less than their customary work week, and those working fewer hours because of coronavirus, may also be eligible for assistance.
There have been more than 571,304 initial unemployment claims filed in Massachusetts since March 15.