The extra $600 checks, which supplement those who regularly receive unemployment benefits, have arrived in the bank accounts of many Massachusetts residents.
But payments have been inconsistent for some, and checks have been inadvertently received by those who don’t qualify. Other beneficiaries do not have these additional payments because they cannot have their claims approved.
The money is part of the federal CARES Act and is intended to be distributed among other things to people across the country who already regularly collect out of work or are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Enhanced Benefits.
Many residents are dependent on the extra cash, particularly those whose future job prospects are increasingly uncertain amid the global pandemic. In Massachusetts, the coronavirus has killed more than 3,400 people and put more than half a million others out of work.
Last week, MassLive received more than a dozen emails from readers who had done so I’ve only seen one of the $600 payments so far, and not a second. Several reported receiving the first $600 payment with their unemployment, but nothing the following week.
Many said they had tried in vain to contact someone at the employment office.
In follow-up interviews, those who saw the first installment of the $600 report received a second lump sum payment on April 21 and a third on April 28 — apparently reflecting the regular weekly benefit plus the added stimulus bonus.
Tyler Creador, who lost his job as a technician at a Mazda dealership in Raynham on the day Governor Charlie Baker ordered all non-essential businesses closedsays he received a regular payment on Wednesday April 8 and the $600 on April 9.
Since then, he has received the money as a one-time deposit: the state’s unemployment benefits lumped together with the federal funds, taxes deducted. On Monday, he saw another such amount on the state’s online portal, post-dated April 28, which arrived the following day.
Initially frustrated by the missed payment, Creador reached out to Senator Becca Rausch, whose office has been helping voters navigate the unemployment system.
“I don’t know why retroactive payments have come so slowly, and I wish the rollout for this had been smoother,” Rausch said in an email. “Our nation is facing unprecedented levels of unemployment and our Commonwealth is no exception. People are in dire need of the financial support they will receive as soon as possible.”
Another woman, who declined to be named, received her second payment on April 21 after not receiving anything the week before, according to documentation she provided to MassLive. She says she was unemployed in Massachusetts before the coronavirus broke out.
But others who don’t qualify for the checks but received them earlier this month now believe they are eligible and have tried to contact state officials
“I haven’t seen anything since then,” said Jessica Sheehan of Mattapoisett, who said she has been unemployed for about a year.
Sheehan said she’s going to school to become a paralegal – a program listed under the so-called state training opportunities programor a Section 30 program — and that the extra $600 would help because opportunities to work in the justice system have diminished during the crisis.
But Sheehan’s regular unemployment benefits expired months before the crisis and is now collecting expanded benefits. According to the state’s website, Sheehan and others in her position will not receive the $600.
But many still have it. Sheehan received a check on April 9th deposited directly into her bank account labeled “MASS DUA Tax” from the state on April 9th for $600.
“It looks like everyone down the line got something on April 9,” the man said in a phone interview, adding that he had received “mixed messages” from state officials about his entitlement to the extra money.
But when he initially saw the $600 threshold, he thought he qualified, as a state official had told him, he said. Another employee told him he was not eligible.
“I’m okay with not getting something I don’t owe, but I just want a straight answer,” he said.
Sheehan, on the other hand, says she hasn’t been able to reach anyone in the state for clarification.
“The most frustrating thing is that you can’t reach anyone,” she said.
According to the state website In the implementation of the CARES Act, the money will be paid “retrospectively to March 29, 2020 and continuously until July 31, 2020” to all persons collecting regular unemployment.
Officials also note that residents were supposed to receive the payments automatically — that payout had started immediately.
“Eligible applicants who are already receiving UI do not need to do anything to have the additional $600 added to their weekly benefit amount,” the website reads. “This benefit is also available to all new applicants who are claiming regular unemployment benefits.”
Charles Pearce, communications director for the state Executive Office for Labor and Human Resources Development, when reached, did not discuss the inconsistencies with the program or why some people were being solicited for payments and others were not.
The state’s computer systems that monitored the flow of jobless claims were obsolete and had to be replacedand those who are self-employed or so-called “gig” workers had to wait until officials rolled out the new program to apply.
Governor Charlie Baker said officials have already processed more than 100,000 applications under the new program; that’s on top of the roughly 650,000 applications filed under the traditional unemployment scheme since March 15, he said. That’s four times the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in February.
Some other states have experienced delays in processing jobless claims and receiving $600 CARES Act payments.
“We’ve heard countless stories across the country about the record number of workers trying to file for unemployment, only to encounter crashing websites, dead phone lines and states that can’t process claims,” Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The The Century Foundation and an unemployment insurance expert said in a media release this week: “Even among workers lucky enough to have their claims processed, the overwhelming majority did not receive emergency assistance in March.