Job fair heavily attended as thousands brace for loss of benefits

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – A total of 363,882 people in Massachusetts were collecting unemployment benefits as of Aug. 14, according to Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development data, and that number stands to plummet after next week.

Most of those claimants are receiving enhanced benefits the federal government has been supporting during the COVID-19 pandemic, which are set to expire the week ending Sept. 4. Once that happens, only the 60,292 claimants in the state’s traditional unemployment insurance programs will continue collecting benefits. Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration have been pushing to use American Rescue Plan Act funds for a $240 million workforce training program.

While the Legislature is still deciding how to allocate the federal relief money and plans to resume its hearings in September, administration officials say they have also been taking steps to reach out to the people whose benefits are about to end.

Those efforts include weekly emails to all claimants, webinars for jobseekers and employers, new online alerts, training for call center agents to handle questions about benefits, and a statewide virtual job fair conducted last week. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that 17,228 jobseekers registered for the fair, with an 85 percent participation rate — well above its typical participation rate of about 30 percent for virtual job fairs.

The heavily marketed event drew 1,693 employers, and 20,718 resumes were submitted, not counting those sent directly to employers’ own portals. The $240 million plan Baker has proposed aims to provide retraining for 52,000 people over three years by scaling up existing programs.

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