BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is tightening up access to jobless benefits as the state emerges more fully from the pandemic.
Work search requirements will be reinstated for all those seeking regular unemployment insurance benefits beginning the week of June 15, the Baker administration announced Thursday.
The requirement applies to those receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and those on extended benefits. Massachusetts suspended work-search requirements in March 2020, following updated federal guidance at the outset of the pandemic.
The change comes after Gov. Charlie Baker announced the state is set to lift all COVID-19 restrictions and complete the state’s reopening process on May 29. Baker also said that the statewide COVID-19 state of emergency will end on June 15.
The reinstatement of the work search requirement means that beginning the week of June 13, those seeking unemployment benefits must attest each week that they are making at least three work-search activities per week and provide proof of work search activity to the Department of Unemployment Assistance if requested.
Work search activities include completing a job application in person or online; registering for work services with a local career center; or using other job search activities like reviewing job listings on the internet or newspapers and networking with colleagues or friends, the administration said.
Most claimants will be entitled to continue receiving partial or reduced UI benefits — and the full amount of the special COVID-related $300 weekly stipend offered through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program — even as they return to employment, officials said.
Those who report wages from a new job will have their regular weekly unemployment weekly benefit reduced to offset new wages, but in most circumstances will remain eligible for the $300 weekly stipend until their regular wages exceed 133% of their regular weekly benefit amount. The stipend ends the first week of September.
Under the work search requirements, those seeking benefits will need to keep a detailed written log of their work search activities and may also be required to attend a career center related activity.
Administration officials said in press release Thursday that there were nearly 200,000 job-postings across Massachusetts.
Beginning June 15, those seeking regular unemployment insurance benefits won’t be able to cite COVID-related reasons to waive work search requirements and must accept suitable employment if offered.
Refusing work because an individual would rather collect more money in unemployment benefits is considered fraud.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 500 Thursday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by nine.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,442 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to more than 658,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were fewer than 330 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 90 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 59. There were an estimated 11,500 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
More than 7.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts as of Thursday.
That includes more than 4 million first doses and more than 3 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
There have been more than 236,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.
More than 3.3 million people have been fully immunized.