IMPROVE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

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By Bob Katzen

The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that supporters say will provide additional unemployment insurance relief to low-income families, non-profit institutions and employers.

Provisions include ensuring 30 weeks instead of 26 weeks of unemployment compensation during any week in which there are more than 100,000 claims; extending the grace period for contributions for many non-profits that self-insure for unemployment claims; protecting employers from increased unemployment insurance costs due to COVID-19; and removing a cap that results in many low-wage workers not receiving additional amounts of unemployment insurance.

Supporters said these provisions make important changes to the unemployment insurance system and will provide emergency relief to both affected workers and business owners who are trying to keep their businesses afloat. They said it is important that the state continue to support workers who through no fault of their own have had their incomes interrupted by the executive orders and regulations necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“We are pleased that the Legislature came to an agreement on this important bill,” said AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman. “As contributory employers are relieved of charges, it is even more incumbent on them to take safe workplaces seriously, and not to force workers into unsafe work environments or threaten workers with blocking their continued unemployment benefits. We are also pleased to see that the inequitable cap on dependency allowances, which unfairly disadvantaged low-wage workers, will be lifted.”

“In these tumultuous and uncertain times, it is imperative that we support workers and families affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19”, said Sen. Nick Collins (D-Boston). “By expanding unemployment benefits, and breaking down barriers to accessing resources, the Massachusetts Senate is emphasizing its commitment to protecting vulnerable residents and workers across the state.”

“In the wake of the novel coronavirus, unemployment has become one the most pressing issues for the Legislature,” said Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury) … “It is our job to support and assist residents of the commonwealth and this legislation is evidence of that.”

“This bill protects employers, including non-profits, and workers as we deal with the economic crisis in the wake of COVID-19,” said Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop.)

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