Residents in Massachusetts will soon need to prove they are looking for work in order to collect weekly unemployment benefits.
The Baker administration said on Thursday that it would would reinstate the requirement June 15, after temporarily suspending it in 2020 because of the pandemic.
For some recipients, this will require testing the waters for the first time in months. But even for people who have been looking for work, the requirement will mean additional reporting and record-keeping responsibilities as the state seeks to verify that those on unemployment rolls are actively seeking jobs.
Here’s what you need to know about how unemployment will work in coming weeks.
Does this apply to me?
The job-search requirement applies to anyone collecting regular unemployment benefits, as well those who have exhausted traditional benefits but are still out of work and receiving aid under state and federal emergency programs.
If you file under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides up to 79 weeks of assistance to those not eligible for traditional benefits — such as gig workers — you do not need to adhere to the work-search requirement.
What do I have to do?
Starting the week of June 13, you will be required to actively look for work in order to be eligible to collect aid, and you must be able to prove it.
That means completing at least three work-search-related activities per week, which might include completing a job application, networking with colleagues or friends, or signing up for reemployment services at a MassHire Career Center.
“The work search requirement is not an onerous obligation,” said Susanne Hafer, an employment lawyer and a partner at Green and Hafer in Boston. “It really just requires that they spend time looking for a job, and that could be competing job applications, or looking for openings and documenting that.”
There’s no specific amount of time that a job-seeker must spend on the hunt, Hafer said.
“You may fill out three applications in half an hour, or you may spend a few hours networking.”
Here’s a list of job-search activities that would keep an individual eligible to collect unemployment aid.
How do I prove that I am searching for work?
To prove you are searching for work, you will need to keep track of your efforts to find a job. Recipients are required to maintain a detailed, weekly log of all of their job-search activities, and they must provide that document to the state Department of Unemployment Assistance if requested.
People should record information such as the date they apply to a job, the position, the salary, and the person they contacted. Here’s a link to a state template for the weekly log.
What if I am offered a job, but it pays less than my unemployment benefits?
If you accept a new job that pays less than what you made weekly on unemployment, you can apply for partial unemployment benefits to make up the difference, the Baker administration said.
Hafer said this number will factor in the ongoing $300 federal benefit enhancement. For example, if an individual collected $1,000 per week in unemployment aid, including the $300 boost, and they accept a job that pays $600 per week, they could still collect an additional $400 in weekly aid.
How long can I keep collecting the $300 federal benefit?
This enhanced benefits program will be available until the first week of September. Even if your new job pays more than what you were collecting on unemployment, the Baker administration said that “in most circumstances” individuals will remain eligible for the $300 weekly stipend, until their new wages exceed 133 percent of their regular weekly benefit amount, without the enhancement.
What happens if I’ve claimed unemployment benefits that I haven’t received yet?
Hafer said that if an individual has applied for unemployment benefits but is still waiting on a decision, they will still need to comply with the search-for-work requirement when it goes into effect.
“You’ll need to remain compliant while waiting for approval,” she said.
Why do I have to look for work to collect unemployment benefits?
Before the pandemic, people collecting unemployment benefits always had to prove that they were looking for work.
That requirement was temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic because of its impact on the economy, as businesses were forced to shut down and many firms laid off or furloughed their staff. Now, employers are saying they can’t get enough workers to fill service, factory, and other job vacancies. Last week, a half-dozen business groups, including the Greater Boston and Cape Cod chambers of commerce, wrote to the Baker administration urging the reinstatement of the job-search requirement.
Almost 40 other states have already reinstated the requirement, or are in the process of doing so.