Baker: Some Jobless Should Wait To Seek Benefits

BOSTON (State House News Service) — The $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill President Donald Trump signed on Friday contains "a lot of good news" for employees put out of work by the pandemic, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday, including a significant expansion of unemployment benefits and eligibility — but many of those in need cannot get help just yet.

While the law will make compensation available to workers who are self-employed, work on contracts, or use 1099 tax forms and increase the weekly benefits by $600 for the next four months, Baker said "the not-so-good news" is states have not yet received implementation instructions. As a result, he said, "these benefits are not available to be applied for today."

The governor urged Massachusetts residents not to seek aid through the existing state portal unless they qualify for unemployment insurance under the existing, pre-relief package system.

"If you attempt to apply for them now, you won't be able to get through the system because the system won't actually have your name in it and it may create a risk and a traffic jam for others who do qualify, who do participate in the existing unemployment insurance system, and are able to access existing unemployment benefits," Baker said at a press conference.

Baker said his administration has been in touch with authorities about when the new federal aid will become available to applicants, and he said he would continue to update the public.

Massachusetts saw a surge in initial unemployment claims in the week ending March 21. During the same span, claims nationwide skyrocketed to more than 3.3 million, far surpassing previous records.

By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service

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