Low-income residents can get retroactive unemployment benefits

With the state’s unemployment rate still hovering close to 10 percent, Gov. Baker made quick work Monday of legislation that will allow thousands of workers to collect $1,800 in additional unemployment benefits, signing the bill just hours after it landed on his desk.

Earlier that day, the House and Senate pushed through a bill (S 2934) to qualify as many as 17,000 people who were previously ineligible for $300 in enhanced weekly federal benefits under the Lost Wages Assistance Program.

The federal program ran for six weeks from the end of July through the first week in September, but in order to qualify for the additional benefits a claimant had to be receiving at least $100 in weekly state benefits.

The bill filed by Sen. Patricia Jehlen, of Somerville, and signed by Baker on Monday afternoon increases the minimum benefit for any unemployment insurance beneficiary to $100 for the week ending Aug. 1 through the week ending Sept. 5, enabling those affected to retroactively collect the enhanced weekly federal benefit.

“This is $31million that people in Massachusetts can use for rent, for food, for other necessities. It will benefit them and local businesses. We can be absolutely sure they will spend it locally and immediately,” Jehlen said on Monday.

The state unemployment rate dipped to 9.6 percent in September but 365,400 people remained unemployed. In the week ending Oct. 10, 39,038 people filed claims for traditional unemployment benefits and another 11,478 filed claims under the expanded eligibility Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.