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Mass. unemployment collection period will be reduced from 30- to 26-week maximum

More companies are finding it difficult to hire skilled employees, pressuring employers to rethink their hiring strategies.
Wilfredo Lee
More companies are finding it difficult to hire skilled employees, pressuring employers to rethink their hiring strategies.

Starting this week, Massachusetts residents filing new claims for unemployment benefits will be eligible for a shorter period of time than at any point since the start of the pandemic. The maximum weeks of benefits will fall from 30 to 26.

This was triggered by a state law, based on falling jobless rates across the commonwealth. Mass. General Law Chapter 151a section 30 is triggered if each of the state's eight metro areas' unemployment averages fall at or below 5.1%.

The collection period was last enacted to 26 weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2019, and brought back up to the 30-week collection period in September 2021, the Boston Globe reported.

Any claimants who file for unemployment benefits on or after July 2 will be affected by the automatic state law. Claimants who filed prior to July 2 can still receive up to 30 weeks of benefits.

MassHire Holyoke board member Dan Bosley, a former state representative, said the benefits reduction may have a greater affect on western Mass job-seekers than those elsewhere in the state.

“It’s the long term, you know, the unemployed that they’re having difficulty finding a job, and those extra four weeks are kind of a cushion here in Massachusetts,” Bosley said.

The automatic decrease in the benefit period will possibly affect western Mass. unemployment collectors more than those based in metropolitan areas, as there are less jobs available in the mostly rural region, Bosely said.

“It’s tougher to find a job in western Massachusetts, and it impacts us, and a lot of these decisions are made statewide,” he said. “Hopefully we focus more on job training and trying to get people ready for jobs… it’s difficult if you’re struggling to find a job and it just means that we need to redouble our efforts to try to make sure people are matched up with jobs that they have or [are] at least job ready."

The change only affects new claims for unemployment. The length of unemployment pay spiked during the pandemic, when the federal government offered additional benefits on top of those offered by the state.

More information on the collection change can be found here.

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