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Legislature Passes Legislation to Extend Unemployment Benefits to 17,000 Low-Income Recipients

BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives passed An Act relative to additional unemployment benefits for the neediest recipients currently excluded from the Lost Wages Assistance program today. The bill would enhance unemployment benefits for 17,000 people in Massachusetts by as much as $1800 each. Thousands of people were left out of the Lost Wages Assistance Grant to extend $300 weekly payment boosts to people collecting unemployment benefits by the federal government.

"This legislation will provide much needed assistance for 17,000 of our most vulnerable across the Commonwealth," said Senator O'Connor. "This funding boost will help families pay their rent and put food on the table. I'm proud of our work to 

In August, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began accepting applications for the Lost Wages Assistance program. However, the program included a restriction that banned people receiving less than $100 a week in benefits from receiving the LWA boost of $300 a week.

Massachusetts was approved for 6 weeks of LWA compensation for every eligible recipient, covering the weeks ending August 1 to September 5. Numerous states acted to increase weekly benefit amounts, including neighboring RI and NH, so that no recipient of unemployment would be left out of receiving the boost. Over 100 legislators wrote on September 24 to Secretary Rosalin Acosta to ask the state to implement a similar increase in weekly benefit amounts for Massachusetts recipients.

In discussions with the legislature, the Baker-Polito administration has indicated that with a small investment of state dollars to increase base benefits retroactively, up to $31M could be returned to the state from the FEMA program. The Department of Unemployment Assistance has been negotiating with FEMA since the legislators issued their request. In an answer legislators received, FEMA advised: “It is possible to make an individual an eligible claimant for LWA from the week ending August 1, 2020, if they are monetarily eligible for at least a $100 weekly benefit amount...”

The legislation will authorize the Baker-Polito Administration to implement an increase to unemployment compensation for every recipient in Massachusetts not receiving at least $100 in weekly benefits. This enhancement would be applied retroactively to roughly 17,000 recipients.

Governor Baker has since signed the legislation.


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