Feds change rules for jobless benefits
PITTSFIELD -- The federal government has instituted a new requirement for those receiving extended unemployment compensation benefits.
Those who don’t follow the new guidelines risk losing their benefits completely, according to Barbara Emanuel of the BerkshireWorks Career Center.
Emanuel said the state began sending letters notifying those receiving Emergency Unem ployment Compensation of the new requirements at the end of May.
"We’re worried that people are not acting on them as quickly as they need to be," she said. "They need to respond as quickly as possible."
Participants are required to respond within five weeks of receiving their letters, Eman uel said. Each individual’s re sponse date should be included in those letters, she added.
In Massachusetts, unemployed workers receive EUC benefits when their state unemployment benefits expire after 26 weeks. The duration of the EUC program varies depending on when the participant files a claim, Emanuel said.
To remain eligible to receive EUC benefits, participants are now required to schedule a mandatory two-hour orientation session at a one-stop career center like Berkshire Works, which has offices in both Pittsfield and North Adams. Those who fail to comply solely with that requirement will lose their benefits for one week. To schedule an orientation session, call 1-800-653-5586.
Participants are also re quired to register with Job Quest, a free online job bank that directs the unemployed to open jobs that they may be qualified for. To register, go to www.mass.gov/jobquest prior to attending the orientation session.
At the orientation session, participants will be required to develop a career action plan to assist them in their job search. They must review and bring their work search log (www. mass.gov/dua/worksearch) to the orientation session along with their resume. Military veterans are required to being a copy of their certificate of release or discharge from active duty, also known as the DD214 form.
In addition to the orientation session, those receiving EUC benefits are required to set up a separate in-person appointment, known as a Re employment Eligibility Assess ment, to meet with a career counselor at a career center. Work search logs, resumes and anything thing else that demonstrates each participant has fulfilled their career action plan must also be brought to this session.
Failure to attend the orientation, participate in re-employment services, or complete a Reemployment Eligibility As sessment without documented good cause will result in a loss of all EUC benefits until all the requirements have been met.
The state is sending 100 letters per week to Berkshire County residents notifying them of the new requirements, Emanuel said.
Those who have returned to full-time work may be exempt from the EUC Reemployment Eligibility Assessment requirements. Workers who fall into that category, should call their local career center to notify them of their new employment status.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
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