5. When Does Eligibility for Benefits Begin?
A claimant becomes eligible to begin collecting UI benefits one week after becoming unemployed. This week-long waiting period starts on the Sunday before the date of the claimant’s application. However, if the claimant is reopening a previous claim, the one-week waiting requirement is waived. Under G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(f), claimants are deemed to have initiated a claim on the first day that they contact or attempt to contact DUA, whether or not they are able to speak with a DUA representative on that day. The effective date of the claim is the Sunday before the date that the claimant first attempts to contact DUA (subject to the 1-week waiting period). The employer must display a DUA poster titled “Information on UI Benefits” and provide former workers with written notice of how to file for UI benefits within 30 days of the last day they worked.
Note: A UI Online application is not complete until the Confirmation Page appears. If not completed up through Saturday at 9:59 pm of the week it was started, a Request for Benefit Payment is saved on UI Online.
Predating a Claim
A claimant may be able to predate their claim effective date to a date prior to the Sunday before the date of the claimant’s application for UI benefits is filed where the employer failed to provide them notice of their right to file for UI, or where they otherwise had good cause for their delay in applying. See Adjudication Handbook (AH), c.2, § 2.
Predates due to inadequate notice by employer:
Employers are required to provide all employees adequate notice of their right to apply for UI within 30 days of the last day the employee performed compensable work. G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(g).
If the employer does not give written notice of how to file for UI benefits within 30 days from the last day the claimant provided paid work and the claimant does not file a timely application for benefits, the claimant is automatically entitled to have the claim predated to the first week of UI eligibility, without regard to whether they had good cause for their delay in filing. G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(g.)§ 62A(g); BR-112109 (11/30/2010) (Key); BR-109713 (1/14/2011) (Key)
Frequently, however, adjudicators and review examiners continue to deny claimants predates on their claims, finding they did not have good cause despite their employer failing to provide them adequate notice as required by G.L. c.151A, § 62A(g). The Board of Review has repeatedly reversed such denials. See BR-0026 0086 90 (2/27/19) (where a claimant is not given written information on filing unemployment claims by their most recent employer, they are automatically entitled to have their claim pre-dated, pursuant to G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(g), without a showing of good cause); BR-109713 (1/14/11) BR-0024 6139 64 (12/24/2018); BR-0025 1553 94 (9/28/2018); BR- 0022 5533 19 (4/30/18); BR-0022 4583 16 (3/16/18); BR-0021 6448 96 (11/28/17); BR-0022 1570 69 (9/13/17); BR-0021 1788 30 (8/28/17); BR-0019 9348 56 (6/28/17); BR0019 9348 56 (6/28/17); BR-0017 7570 67 (8/26/16);
Advocates should also ensure that notices provided by employers are adequate under § 62A(g), which requires the notice to contain information including the name and mailing address of the employer, the identification number assigned to the employer by DUA, the address and telephone number of the regional DUA office which serves the recipient, and the telephone number of the teleclaim informational line. The statute places the burden of proof on the employer to show that it provided the claimant with information on how to file for unemployment insurance within 30 days after the employment was severed. BR-0017 7491 67 (6/14/16).
The requirements of § 62A(g) are strictly construed. For example, the employer’s failure to provide written notice consistent with the statute results in an automatic predate regardless of the claimant’s actual knowledge of their right to file for UI. BR-0038 5388 24 (10/29/20). The claimant is entitled to an automatic predate if the employer fails to provide notice in writing. It is not sufficient for the employer to provide verbal notice of the right to file for UI, BR-0063 3320 10 (9/27/21), or to provide notice through a video message, BR-0046 2548 33 (11/24/20). See also BR-0031 5356 66 (1/2/20) (finding employer’s verbal notice of claimant’s right to UI in a meeting insufficient to satisfy requirement that employer provides notice in writing); BR-0035 1409 00 (9/28/20) (finding claimant automatically entitled to predate where employer had not provided written notice of right to UI).
Even if the employer’s notice is in writing, the claimant is entitled to an automatic predate if the notice fails to include all the information required by the statute. BR-0048 8834 56 (12/23/20); see also BR-0051 2942 08 (9/21/21) (email providing only general information about the claimant’s right to file for UI but which failed to provide information about how and where to apply was insufficient under § 62A(g), and claimant entitled to predate of her claim without regard to good cause). BR-0062 9607 97 (2/24/22) (claimant entitled to automatic predate of claim where employer provided a link to the DUA’s UI website, rather than notice containing all information required by statute).
Predates for good cause:
Predating of claims is also available when the claimant if the claimant is able to establish good cause for failing to file earlier. AH c. 2, § 2(C). Good cause for predating include the inability to reach a Call Center or DUA representative due to the volume of claims, BR-0017 2892 01 (6/28/16), or the failure of DUA to provide information in a claimant’s primary language. Advocates should note that a claimant is deemed to have initiated their claim for UI benefits “on the first day that the claimant contacts or attempts to contact [DUA], whether or not such employee is able to speak with a [DUA] representative at the time.” G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(f).
Problems with UI Online can also constitute grounds for predating a claim. BR-0022 3860 38 (1/19/18)(holding that technical barriers in DUA’s filing and registration system for someone who is in and out of unemployment constitutes good cause for predating); see also BR-0049 0100 32 (5/21/21) (allowing predate where claimant did not have computer to file claim and was unable to reach DUA by phone due to high call volume); BR-0064 7537 96 (10/27/21)(claimant entitled to predate of claim where she filed her MA UI claim one month late because she mistakenly attempted to proceed with an open UI claim in NY).
A claimant’s health challenges may also constitute good cause to predate a claim, though advocates should note this could generate a capability issue for the weeks between the claimant’s separation and the date they were able to file their UI claim. See BR-0074 8429 39 (7/18/22) (good cause for predate where claimant’s severe mental health challenges impacted his functioning to the point they were not able file a claim until weeks after separation constitutes good cause).
Requesting a predate:
To request a predate, claimants should call DUA at (877) 626-6800 toll free for area codes 351, 413, 508, 774, and 978 or (617) 626-6800 and speak with an agent to request the predate. The call center representative will likely create a predate (or “reporting requirements”) issue, requiring the claimant and employer to fill out questionnaires and wait for adjudication of the issue. Claimants may appeal a determination denying a predate request.
Payment of UI Benefits
Once DUA determines the claimant eligible for UI, the state will issue UI benefits through a DUA issued debit card, or, if the claimant affirmatively chooses, through direct deposit. In 2022, DUA switched its debit card provider. Information about how to activate the DUA-issued debit card may be found at: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-the-us-bank- reliacardr-the-dua-debit-card.
Claimants who lose a paper check, have 12 months from the date of issuance to request a replacement UI payment and similarly have 12 months to activate the DUA Debit Card. After the 12-month period, unused funds will be credited back to the UI Trust Fund unless the claimant demonstrates "extreme, extenuating circumstance." See UIPP # 2016.02, Implementation of Time Limit on Replacement UI Payments (2/12/16).