By: John T. Ayers-Mann and Robert A. Fisher

Seyfarth Synopsis: With the advent of the CARES Act, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has taken steps to implement Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new measure aimed at providing unemployment insurance to gig economy workers and independent contractors typically ineligible for benefits.

On Monday, the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”) announced that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance guaranteed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) would become available for gig economy workers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals.  Typically, under Massachusetts unemployment law, self-employed individuals are ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits and are not required to make contributions to the state unemployment insurance fund from their earnings.  However, on March 27, 2020, the federal government enacted the CARES Act, which expanded unemployment benefits to non-employee workers and self-employed individuals.  Although the DUA began implementing other provisions of the CARES Act as early as April 9, the DUA had yet to provide the additional benefits for non-employees that were guaranteed under the CARES Act.  Now, those individuals typically ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits can apply under the expanded coverage afforded by the CARES Act

Under the newly-implemented provisions of the CARES Act, non-employee applicants who are able to certify that they are able to work but are prevented from doing so due to COVID-19 related circumstances may be eligible for unemployment benefits.  In addition to unemployment benefits afforded under the state program, applicants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can also receive an additional $600 per week in supplemental benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.  The DUA has also explained that initially it will only pay CARES Act benefits to eligible applicants for the period beginning from March 14 to the present, but that eligible applicants will later be able to request benefits for the period beginning February 8 to the present.  In order to apply for unemployment benefits provided under the CARES Act, non-employee applicants will need to provide wage records from 2019 (including Form 1099s, pay stubs, and bank statements), along with the information that employee applicants are typically required to submit.  Once non-employee applicants apply for benefits, they will need to re-certify their need for benefits on a weekly basis via the DUA’s online portal.  For more information about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, visit the DUA’s website.