The Commonwealth of Massachusetts indicates that workers can expect to receive somewhere around 50 percent of their average weekly earnings as unemployment compensation if they lose their jobs. Your employer must have submitted your wage information to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) for each quarter you worked. This determines whether you earned enough to be eligible for unemployment benefits. A lot of other factors contribute to how much you'll receive as well.
Your Primary Base vs. Your Alternate Base
Massachusetts bases your compensation on either your primary base period or an alternate base period. Your primary base period is the last four calendar quarters you worked. The DUA will use your alternate base instead if you're ineligible to use your primary base and this option increases your benefit credit by 10 percent or more. The alternate period is the last three complete quarters.
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Your Benefit Year
Your benefit year figures into calculations, too. Your claim for benefits will remain open for one year. Compensation will be paid to you throughout this time period or until you've received the maximum benefit credit that you're eligible for, whichever comes first.
You won't receive your entire maximum benefit credit if the year expires before it's paid to you. You can file a new claim at this time, however, at least while the nation is facing the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and federal legislation remains in place.
Your Maximum Benefit Credit
Your maximum benefit credit is the cap on how much unemployment compensation you can receive in your benefit year. It's calculated in two ways, and the lesser result is the one that applies.
Multiply your weekly amount by 26. Then compare this number to what you arrive at if you multiply the total wages you received during your base period by 36 percent, or 0.36.
Massachusetts Offers Dependency Allowances
The Commonwealth recognizes that the family responsibilities of all workers aren't all necessarily equal. You might be eligible for an additional $25 a week for each dependent child you support. But there's a catch here. You can't be married. You must be the child's "whole or main support."
Each child must be younger than age 18, or younger than age 24 if they're still a full-time student. They're eligible at any age if they're disabled. The $25 per child can't exceed 50 percent of your weekly unemployment benefits.
Calculate Your Unemployment Compensation
Start by identifying your total wages in each of the last four complete quarters you worked. Now identify the two highest numbers. As an example, we'll say you earned $7,500 in one quarter and $9,000 in the other. Add these together, and you come up with $16,500.
Divide this number by 26, because each of those quarters covered 13 weeks. This results in your average weekly earnings. Using $16,500, it works out to $634.61.
Massachusetts pays unemployment compensation at the rate of about 50 percent of your average weekly wage, so your weekly benefit amount would be half this, or $317.30. You can round it up to the next dollar, which works out to $318.
Now let's assume that you're a single parent supporting two young children. You can add another $50 if you and they qualify. That's less than half of $318, so you can add that $50 to your weekly benefit amount to arrive at $368.
The state provides a Massachusetts unemployment calculator on its website to give you an "advisory" estimate of what you're entitled to if you'd prefer to skip the math.
Changes in Response to COVID-19
All this presumes that the nation isn't in the grip of a COVID pandemic. Federal law has tweaked the rules for unemployment a couple of times, and Massachusetts has so far adopted these changes.
An additional $300 a week was added to benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Act through Jan. 2, 2021. The American Rescue Plan of 2021 has extended this to Sept. 4, 2021.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides for benefits for up to 72 weeks, and this has been extended to Sept. 4, 2021, as well.