covid-19-state-federal-updates-2

For up-to-the-minute information on COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website by clicking the button below.

For up-to-the-minute information on COVID-19 in Massachusetts, please visit the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) website by clicking the button below.

For regularly updated state and federal COVID-19 information, click the button below.

Reopening

On May 18, 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration released Reopening Massachusetts, the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, which details a four-phased strategy to reopen businesses and activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Administration also released a new “Safer-at-Home” Advisory as its original Stay-at-Home Advisory expired on May 18, 2020. This updated advisory encourages residents to stay at home unless engaging with newly opened activities, as a way to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19. 

Helpful links:

Unemployment

On March 18, 2020, Governor Baker signed S.2599 to provide unemployment assistance to workers impacted by COVID-19. This legislation allows new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is hosting daily town hall meetings where they will take constituents through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim and taking questions from claimants across the Commonwealth.

If you need help with your application, have questions, or are experiencing issues, please attend one of the virtual town halls (more information below) or contact DUA using these online contact forms. Please note, when you receive a call from DUA, it will very likely come from a blocked/unknown phone number or from a (617) 626-XXXX – please do not screen these calls or you may miss your contact from DUA.

Helpful links:

Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) Virtual Town Halls

In order to better meet the needs of customers whose employment has been affected by the coronavirus, DUA is hosting daily town hall meetings where they take constituents through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim and taking questions from claimants across the Commonwealth.

Town halls are offered both over the phone and online.

If joining by phone, you must sign up by 5:30 p.m. the night before the town hall. Phone participants can press *3 to ask a question and a live person will put your question in the queue.

If joining online, you may sign up, but it is not required. You can access the town hall online by visiting this link. Online viewers can also ask a question through the chat function on your screen.

Helpful Links

CARES Act Unemployment Benefits

On March 27, 2020, the federal government enacted the CARES Act which extends unemployment benefit eligibility to individuals who are:

  • self-employed, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors;
  • seeking part-time employment;
  • have an insufficient work history to qualify for benefits;
  • have exhausted all rights to regular or extended benefits under state or federal law or to Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC);
  • have been laid off from churches and religious institutions and are not eligible for benefits under state law;
  • or otherwise would not qualify for regular or extended benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

The FPUC program will provide an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), Trade Readjustment Act (TRA), and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DA). The Department has already begun implementing the FPUC program for regular UC claimants. The $600 will be added to all eligible weeks of benefits retroactive to March 29, 2020 and continuing until July 31, 2020. FPUC monetary disbursements will begin immediately in Massachusetts for those who are currently collecting benefits on regular UC claims. Those receiving PEUC, PUA, and EB will receive the additional $600 payments retroactive to March 29, 2020 as soon as their claims are processed and determined eligible.

Eligible claimants who are already receiving unemployment benefits do not need to do anything for the additional $600 to be added to their weekly benefit amount. This benefit will be available for all new claimants filing for regular Unemployment Compensation as well, which can be done at mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19.

The additional $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit is taxable and will count as income when determining eligibility for means-tested programs, except for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If you receive unemployment benefits, you will receive FPUC through July 31, 2020 and cannot refuse it if you’re collecting unemployment benefits.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PUA will provide up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not working as a result of COVID-19 and are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others who otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or PEUC.

These individuals must apply through the PUA application (separate from UI Online) which became available on April 20, 2020. More information is here.

Eligible claimants under PUA will be retroactively compensated with this benefit beginning February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19, whichever date is later. The last week this benefit is payable is the week ending December 26, 2020.

Eligible claimants must apply here. Eligible claimants will receive this benefit backdated to February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19.

If you have both self-employed income and W-2 income, it is in the federal CARES Act statute that you must apply for traditional state unemployment insurance (UI) first before applying for PUA. If you qualify for UI, you are ineligible for and may not apply for PUA. You cannot collect both UI and PUA.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

The CARES Act authorized an extension of unemployment benefits  for individuals who have exhausted benefits as far back as July 1, 2019. This program, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits.

PEUC benefits are now available through the standard Unemployment Insurance program in Massachusetts and can be accessed at UI Online.

If you had exhausted your regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefit but were receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) you must now head to UI Online to apply and claim your weekly benefits.

PEUC will automatically begin for individuals who have been receiving regular standard unemployment benefits on an active claim and those benefits are exhausted, and those individuals do not have to take any further action.

Those receiving PEUC will also receive the additional $600 weekly benefit through the week ending July 25, 2020, provided by the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

More information on PEUC can be found here.

Helpful links:

Temporary Layoffs/Furloughed Employees

At the state level, temporarily unemployed/furloughed workers should be eligible for unemployment benefits. According to DUA, workers who are temporarily unemployed due to lack of work resulting from COVID-19 who expect to return to work with their employer will be considered on standby status. Those laid-off employees will be expected to reasonably maintain contact with their employer while unemployed and be available for work when the employer offers it. The employer should have employees ready to return when the employer is ready to resume business.

Working Part-Time While Receiving Unemployment Benefits

If you work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits, either through traditional state unemployment insurance (UI) or federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), you may still qualify for unemployment benefits. The weekly benefit amount you receive may be adjusted based on how much you earn from your part-time job.

If you work part-time hours during weeks in which you request unemployment benefits, you may still be paid benefits if your gross wages (total wages before taxes are deducted) are less than your weekly benefit amount. Any earnings greater than 1/3 of your weekly benefit amount (known as your earnings disregard) will be deducted dollar-for-dollar from your weekly benefit payment.

You must report any changes in your unemployment status while you are receiving benefits. It is your responsibility to report all your earnings when requesting weekly benefits if you get a part-time job.

If you work full-time hours in any given week, you will be considered employed “full-time” regardless of wages, and you will not be eligible for benefits for that week. Full-time is generally between 35 and 40 hours per week. You are considered employed full-time if you are working the customary full-time schedule in your job or occupation.

Helpful links:

Unemployment Benefits as Taxable Income

Unemployment benefits are counted as taxable income. You can withhold taxes from your weekly benefit payments. The most streamlined way to do this is to complete the tax withholding section of UI Online when you first apply. If you want to have taxes withheld after you’ve already applied, you can edit your claim to have taxes withheld.

To view your tax withholdings from your weekly unemployment benefits, visit your Claimant Home Page (log into UI Online and go to My Home Page).

If you don’t elect to have taxes withheld from your weekly benefits, you will be responsible for paying federal and state taxes directly.

The additional $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit will count as income when determining eligibility for means-tested programs, except for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If you receive unemployment benefits, you will receive FPUC through July 31, 2020 and cannot refuse it if you’re collecting unemployment benefits.

Report Unemployment Benefits Fraud

Criminal enterprises using stolen personal information from earlier national data breaches have been attempting to file fraudulent unemployment claims through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) system. This is part of a national unemployment fraud scheme.

If you believe someone has applied for unemployment benefits using your personal information, please use DUA’s secure fraud reporting form to alert them or call the DUA customer service department at (877) 626-6800.

If you believe your identity has been stolen and you are a victim of fraud, you can protect yourself by reporting identity theft to law enforcement, creditors, credit agencies, and government agencies.

Helpful links:

Personal Health & Safety

Safer-at-Home Advisory

Effective May 18, 2020, the Department of Public Health updated the Stay-at-Home Advisory, replacing it with a new, “Safer-at-Home” Advisory.

The new Safer-at-Home Advisory instructs everyone to stay home unless they are headed to a newly opened facility or activity. It also advises those over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay home with the exception of trips required for health care, groceries, or that are otherwise absolutely necessary.

All residents must continue to wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not possible, and individuals are advised to wash their hands frequently and be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms.

Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect.

Helpful links:

Domestic Safety

If you or someone you know does not feel safe at home, please call 1-800-799-7233 for live support. If you are unable to speak safely, you can chat online at thehotline.org, or text LOVEIS to 22522.

Helpful links:

Emotional Health & Well-Being

Taking care of your emotional health and well-being during this time is important. Decreasing stress can help bolster your immune system and can help keep you and others around you healthy. Click here for a list of resources and tips for staying emotionally healthy and well.

Contact your behavioral health provider to see if they can schedule a telehealth visit. Telehealth is a virtual therapy session. Many providers are now offering this option.

Helpful links:

Addiction & Recovery Resources

This is an unsettling time for those working to address opioid and substance misuse and for those in treatment or recovery from substance and opioid use disorders. The Opioid Task Force put together an array of resources to help.

Helpful links:

Testing

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, please contact your healthcare provider and a test site near you to schedule a test. Please contact the site prior to arrival. Many sites may also require pre-screening, a referral and/or an appointment.

Helpful links:

How to Know if You Should Get Tested for COVID-19: Buoy Health Care Tool

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of Buoy Health’s new online resource for residents to check their symptoms and connect with the next appropriate health care resource. This tool does not replace emergency medical care, but it may be used as a support for residents during the COVID-19 outbreak to connect them with appropriate health care resources if they display coronavirus symptoms.

Buoy Health’s online 24/7 tool is free for Massachusetts residents and uses current COVID-19 guidance from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Visit Buoy.com/mass to learn more and use the tool.

Hospitals & Community Health Centers

If you think you should be tested, please call your healthcare provider, local hospital, or community health center. Remember: Call before visiting!

  • Athol Memorial Hospital (Athol), 978-249-3511
  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center (Greenfield), 413-773-0211
  • Cooley Dickinson Hospital (Northampton), 413-582-2000
  • Heywood Hospital (Gardner) is now is now directing people with symptoms to:
    • Heywood Urgent Care (Gardner), 978-669-5959
    • Tully Walk-In Care (Athol), 978-248-8558
  • Community Health Center of Franklin County (Greenfield), 413-325-8500
  • Community Health Center of Franklin County (Orange), 978-544-7800
  • John P. Musante Health Center (Amherst), 413-835-4980

Helpful link:

Wearing Cloth Masks in Public

Beginning May 6, 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration has ordered all residents over the age of two to use a face covering or mask in public places where maintaining proper social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are not possible. This order and supersedes previously issued guidance relative to mask use.

This order applies to all workers and customers of businesses and other organizations that are currently open to the public and permitted to operate as COVID-19 Essential Businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores. Residents are also required to wear a mask or face covering at all times when using any means of transportation service or public mass transit.

A face covering may include anything that covers your nose and mouth, including a mask, scarf or bandana. Health care masks should not be used and should be preserved for health care workers and first responders. Cloth masks should not be worn by young children under the age of two, persons with difficulty breathing, or those who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

It is critical to emphasize that the mask recommendation does not replace social distancing, stay at home measures, and hand washing recommendations that remain in effect. Social distancing, staying at home except for essential travel, and hand hygiene remain vitally important to slowing the spread of the virus.

Helpful links:

Health Insurance

For help with health insurance enrollment, call Health Care For All’s free and multilingual Health Coverage HelpLine at 1-800-272-4232 or visit the Health Coverage HelpLine website. The HelpLine provides assistance in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

MassHealth

MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and provides comprehensive health coverage for low-income people and eligible seniors and people with disabilities. Most people have no premiums and no copays. Due to COVID-19, you can now apply for insurance at any time. Enrollment information is available online or by calling MassHealth’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-841-2900 (TTY: 1-800-497-4648).

Effective immediately, MassHealth will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18, 2020 and for all individuals approved for coverage during the COVID-19 outbreak national emergency and for one month after the emergency period ends. Coverage will only end if an individual requests termination of eligibility or if they are no longer a resident of the state. Members will not lose coverage or have a decrease in benefits for any other reason.

For individuals who have received notices that their coverage is ending after March 18, 2020, no change in coverage will occur. You do not have to send in any paperwork to keep your coverage, and steps will be taken to ensure your coverage does not terminate.

Helpful links:

Health Connector

The Health Connector is the state’s marketplace for reduced-cost coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It is also the easiest place to shop for and enroll in regular individual and family insurance plans.

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, an extended enrollment period is available through May 25, 2020 for qualified Massachusetts residents who are uninsured.

If you need health insurance or have experienced a job change and no longer have health insurance through work, apply through the Massachusetts Health Connector.

If you already have health insurance coverage through the Health Connector, make sure to return to your application to update all changes in circumstances to ensure that you are receiving the most appropriate benefits. Even if you have not received financial assistance in the past, you may be newly eligible for subsidies that could lower your monthly health insurance premium.

Helpful links:

Group Insurance Commission (GIC)

The GIC provides and administers health insurance and other benefits to the Commonwealth’s employees and retirees, their dependents and survivors. The GIC also covers housing and redevelopment authority personnel, participating municipalities, as well as retired municipal employees and teachers in certain governmental units.

GIC’s annual enrollment begins Monday, April 6, 2020. Because of COVID-19, GIC has extended the deadline to Monday, June 1, 2020 to provide more time for members to review options and get questions answered by GIC Coordinators.

Helpful links:

Private Health Insurance Carriers

If you access health insurance through a private insurance carrier, like Blue Cross, Harvard Pilgrim, and Tufts, we encourage you to visit your insurance carrier’s website to understand specific COVID-19 related decisions they are making. All of the major Massachusetts insurers, including Blue Cross, Harvard Pilgrim, and Tufts, are not charging any copays or deductible costs for both testing and treatment connected with COVID-19.

Helpful links:

Telehealth

The Department of Public Health has issued guidance that requires all commercial insurers, self-insured plans, and the Group Insurance Commission to cover medically necessary telehealth services, whether related to COVID-19 or not, in the same manner they cover in-person services. For COVID-19 treatment, insurers must do this without requiring cost-sharing of any kind, such as copays and coinsurance.

Helpful links:

Massachusetts Hospital & Nursing Home Changes and Division of Insurance (DOI) Bulletins

The state has taken numerous actions through administrative guidance like bulletins or Executive Orders to modify hospital and nursing home operations or to place new requirements on insurance carriers. All hospitals have been directed to postpone non-essential elective procedures, and visitation at nursing homes has been restricted. For a complete list of state actions, click here.

The Division of Insurance has issued several bulletins in response to COVID-19, including a bulletin to commercial health insurers and other organizations outlining the Division’s expectations regarding appropriate coverage of testing and treatment for COVID-19. Insurers must cover COVID-19 related treatment and testing without requiring cost-sharing of any kind – such as copays and coinsurance – for testing and treatment. Additionally, insurers cannot require prior authorization for these services. More information is in the links below.

Helpful links:

Food Security

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, more people in Massachusetts are experiencing food insecurity. In March of this year alone, approximately 38% of Massachusetts residents have reported experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. This is a stark increase compared to the 2018 numbers of approximately 9% of Massachusetts residents experiencing food insecurity.

If you are experiencing food insecurity, there are resources available. Please visit the links below and/or call our office at (413) 367-4656 for help with accessing these resources.

Helpful links:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) administers SNAP benefits. SNAP provides a monthly benefit to buy nutritious foods. To get SNAP, you must be low-income and be a U.S. citizen or legal noncitizen (restrictions apply). Eligibility for SNAP benefits depends on financial and non-financial criteria.

If you qualify for and/or receive SNAP benefits, you may also qualify for P-EBT. See information on P-EBT below.

Helpful links:

Pandemic EBT (P-EBT)

P-EBT, or Pandemic EBT, is a federal program that provides food support to help families with children who were receiving free and reduced-price school meals. The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), in collaboration with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), received approval to operate this program in response to the COVID-19 related school closures.

You do not need to apply for P-EBT; this is an automatic benefit for those who qualify.

If you already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits through the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and qualify for P-EBT, funds will be added to the EBT card you already have and you can use your funds the same way you use your SNAP benefits.

If you do not already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits through the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and qualify for P-EBT, an P-EBT card will be mailed to you. One card per eligible child will be provided. Remember to keep your card as more funds may be added later.

Helpful links:

Resources for Small Businesses

Helpful links:

Essential Services

The decision of businesses being deemed essential and remaining in operation is enforced locally in each municipality. Because the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services (DLS) is responsible for interpreting state laws that affect local governance, DLS is supporting municipalities and local boards of health in ensuring businesses are following all public health protocols at this time. Questions and disputes about businesses remaining in operation because they view themselves as essential should be brought to the local board of health the business operates in.

Businesses not designated as serving an “essential service” under the issued guidance, should consider applying for a designation by completing and submitting the Essential Service Designation Request form.

All submissions through the Essential Service Designation Request form are actively reviewed. The state will not be issuing decisions on individual requests from businesses as to whether or not they are essential. They will, however, categorize requests by industry. For example, if the state receives 100 requests from landscaping businesses, they would consider adding landscaping as an essential business. 

All businesses should follow social distancing protocols for workers and customers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health.

Helpful links:

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) EIDL of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred. Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the COVID-19. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent.

The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information, and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call 1-800-877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 18, 2020.

If you applied to Mass Growth Capital Corporation’s (MGCC) Small Business Recovery Loan fund, you are encouraged to apply for additional EIDL support. Due to the availability of EIDL funds, MGCC is no longer accepting applications to the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund as of 12:30PM on March 19th, 2020.

Helpful links:

The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance is a Loan Advance of $10,000 through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that is available to applicants who have been approved for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan; it does not need to be repaid, so you can think of the Advance as a grant for business expenses.

If you have applied or intend to apply to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, you can also apply for a Loan Advance.

Visit the SBA’s website to submit an application for the Economic Disaster Injury Loan and Loan Advance.

Please note that you should submit an application at the above link, even if you’ve previously submitted an EIDL application prior to the Loan Advance being available.

Helpful link: 

The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

PPP is available starting April 3, 2020 through June 30, 2020.

This program is for any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), private non-profit organization or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by coronavirus/COVID-19.

Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries.

Small businesses in the hospitality and food industry with more than one location could also be eligible at the store and location level if the store employs less than 500 workers. This means each store location could be eligible.

You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.

Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

This loan has a maturity of 2 years and an interest rate of .5%.

Helpful links:

The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Small Business Debt Relief
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is also offering Debt Relief to small businesses. Under this relief, the SBA will pay the principal and interest for six months beginning March 27th, 2020 for qualifying new and current holders of 7(a) loans.

Businesses who already have a covered 7(a) SBA loan or receive a 7(a) SBA loan prior to September 27, 2020 can apply.

This relief is applied for covered loans beginning with payments due after March 27, 2020.

Reach out to your SBA lender to discuss how this debt relief applies to your SBA loan.

This debt relief is available only to 7(a) loans and not to loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program, 504 loans, or micro-loans.

Helpful link:

The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Express Bridge Loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing and can be a term loans or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan. If a small business has an urgent need for cash while waiting for decision and disbursement on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they may qualify for an SBA Express Disaster Bridge Loan.

Speak to your lender about accessing this option while you await a decision on long-term financing.

Helpful link:

The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act

The federal CARES Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, is designed to encourage Eligible Employers to keep employees on their payroll, despite experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19, with an employee retention tax credit (Employee Retention Credit).

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to pay sick or family leave wages to employees who are unable to work or telework due to certain circumstances related to COVID-19. Employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit for the required leave paid, up to specified limits. The same wages cannot be counted for both credits.

Helpful link:

The Employee Retention Credit is a federal tax credit. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Administrative Tax Relief Measures

The Baker-Polito Administration announced administrative tax relief measures for small local businesses which have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

This tax relief includes postponing the collection of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes that would be due in March, April and May so that they will instead be due on June 20. The Department of Revenue announced that it will waive any late-file or late-pay penalties for returns and payment due for meals and room occupancy taxes between March 20 and May 31, 2020.

Businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and business that paid less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes.

Sales and Use Taxes

Due dates for the filing of returns and making payments for sales and use taxes have been changed for some vendors. Review the details of the emergency regulation amendment.

Room Occupancy Excise for Operators

Due dates for the filing of returns, and making payments, for room occupancy excise have been changed for some operators. This does not apply to intermediaries. Review the details of the emergency regulation amendment.

Meals Tax and Room Occupancy Excise

Late File and Late Pay Penalties will be waived for meals vendors, operators, and intermediaries that do not qualify for the relief mentioned above under “Room Occupancy Excise for operators.” See Technical Information Release 20-2 for details.

Helpful link:

WorkShare

WorkShare is a program that offers a smart alternative to layoffs. Employees work reduced hours while collecting unemployment benefits to supplement their lower wages.

Because many businesses are reducing hours for employees without laying them off, they can find it useful to use the WorkShare program.

  • Employers must enter agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) about employees that will be covered
  • Eligibility is based upon unemployment eligibility
  • Benefit to employee is based upon hours that are being reduced as a share of full-time work – that reduction in hours % is multiplied by the UI benefit the worker would receive if they were fully unemployed
  • Current benefit rate of UI is maximum of ½ of income or up to $823/week
  • WorkShare participants must plan for at least 10% reduction in hours and no more than 60% reduction in hours

Helpful links:

Rapid Response – Layoff Aversion

Rapid Response tries to identify the exact needs of a company in crisis. Once the needs are assessed then the team tries to help the company establish partnerships with other organizations and build networks to help them try and acquire those needs meant to reduce the possibility of layoffs or a plant closure.

Some of the resources available to companies to maintain their workforce include:

  • Matching businesses that are in transition with businesses that are hiring for similar
  • Communicating directly with employers on their needs and what is necessary to avoid layoffs
  • Educate employers on various state and local programs and agencies including:
    • WorkShare Program
    • Workforce Training Funds
    • Career Centers
    • Tax Incentives
    • Business Loans
    • Growth based systems for manufacturing
    • Employee Ownership and succession plans
    • Export opportunity identification
    • SBA information

For more information, contact Rapid Response.

Helpful link:

Unemployment for Employers

Employer Unemployment Insurance Contribution Rates/Experience Ratings

We know employers are concerned about their unemployment expenses as a result of so many people accessing unemployment benefits. In response, the Massachusetts Senate released a bill (not yet law), that would exempt an employer’s experience rating from the impacts of an unemployment claim resulting from the effects of COVID-19 or the effects of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency, and directs resulting charges to the solvency account that are not paid for by federal funds for either a year from the effective date or 6 months after the termination of the March 10, 2020 state of emergency, whichever is later.

This state bill is not yet law and still needs to pass the Senate and the House and be signed by the Governor before it would take effect.

Temporary Layoffs/Furloughed Employees

At the state level, temporarily unemployed/furloughed workers should be eligible for unemployment benefits. According to DUA, workers who are temporarily unemployed due to lack of work resulting from COVID-19 who expect to return to work with their employer will be considered on standby status. Those laid-off employees will be expected to reasonably maintain contact with their employer while unemployed and be available for work when the employer offers it. The employer should have employees ready to return when the employer is ready to resume business.

Helpful links:

MEMA’s Emergency Operations Center’s Private Sector Hotline

The hotline will be staffed Monday – Friday from 8am to 4pm. The number for the hotline is 508-820-2094.

Small Business Support from the Attorney General’s Office

Small Business Relief Partnership Grant Program

The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AGO) has committed $500,000 to assisting municipalities and regional planning agencies with providing financial relief to local small businesses most impacted by closures, policies, or general loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Municipalities and regional planning agencies will be awarded funds up to $50,000 per request to administer or supplement a grant program targeting local small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.

Massachusetts municipal governments and Massachusetts Regional Planning Agencies are invited to apply. More information is here.

Legal Assistance for Small Businesses and Nonprofits

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has joined the COVID Relief Coalition, a coalition of law firms, nonprofits, and government agencies to provide vulnerable businesses and mission-driven organizations with pro bono legal support. Coalition partners have created a new website that will support the Coalition’s mission by enabling small businesses and nonprofits to learn about and apply for emergency loans and other sources of relief. The website will connect eligible small businesses and nonprofits to free legal support by Coalition partners, and can be accessed here.

Helpful links:

Taxes

Federal Income Tax

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the deadlines to both file and pay federal income taxes to July 15, 2020.

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.

Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.

The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days. Even with the filing deadline extended, the IRS is urging taxpayers who are owed refunds to file as soon as possible and file electronically. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds. 

The IRS will continue to monitor issues related to the COVID-19 virus, and updated information will be posted on a special COVID-19 page on IRS.gov.

Helpful links:

The IRS is a federal agency. If you have any questions regarding the IRS and/or federal taxes, please contact your federal representative.

Massachusetts Taxes

Personal income tax

Massachusetts has extended the 2019 state individual income tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020. This income tax relief is automatic and taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms to qualify. 

Individuals with questions or concerns regarding Massachusetts taxes can contact the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at (DOR) 617-887-6367 or send a secure e-message through MassTaxConnect.

Sales and Use Taxes

Due dates for the filing of returns and making payments for sales and use taxes have been changed for some vendors. Review the details of the emergency regulation amendment.

Room Occupancy Excise for operators

Due dates for the filing of returns, and making payments, for room occupancy excise have been changed for some operators. This does not apply to intermediaries. Review the details of the emergency regulation amendment.

Meals Tax and Room Occupancy Excise

Late File and Late Pay Penalties will be waived for meals vendors, operators, and intermediaries that do not qualify for the relief mentioned above under “Room Occupancy Excise for operators.” See Technical Information Release 20-2 for details.

Helpful links: 

Municipal Taxes

Massachusetts has enacted legislation to address disruptions in municipal tax collections. The legislation:

  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or town, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, to extend certain local tax payment deadlines in accordance with this act.
  • Prohibits a city or town from terminating an essential service of a resident, including, but not limited to, water, trash collection or electricity, for nonpayment of taxes or fees with a due date on or after March 10, 2020, made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020, if the nonpayment resulted from a demonstrated inability to pay due to circumstances related to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus; provided that the inability to pay shall include a demonstrated financial hardship of a resident, which may include, but not be limited to, loss of employment, serious illness of someone within the home or death of someone within the home. 
  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or the prudential committee or commissioners of a district, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus and the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020, to waive the payment of interest and other penalty in the event of late payment of any excise, tax, betterment assessment or apportionment thereof, water rate or annual sewer use or other charge added to a tax for any payments with a due date on or after March 10, 2020 and made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020. 

Inquire with your city or town about specific municipal taxes and bills (e.g., property tax, vehicle excise tax, utility bills, etc.).

Volunteer

Massachusetts is working with local health care providers and boards of health across the Commonwealth to find places where health professionals can volunteer to support communities through MA Responds.

There are also plenty of other volunteer opportunities across the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district.

Helpful links:

Multilingual COVID-19 Resources

Mass.gov web pages can be translated into the following languages by clicking the “Select Language” dropdown menu at the top of any Mass.gov page:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • French
  • Haitian Creole
  • Italian
  • Khmer
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese
Contra COVID

Contra COVID provides information, news, health and social resources in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole to help Latino and immigrant families with important resources that they might need during these difficult times. Visit Contra COVID’s website at contracovid.com.

Helpful link:

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition

MIRA has created a continuously-updated page on their website on COVID-19 resources that are available to immigrant constituents, as well as an accessible Spanish-language guide (other languages in process) that may help constituents whose first language is Spanish.

Helpful links:

Department of Public Health (DPH) COVID-19 Prevention Multilingual Printable Factsheets

The Massachusetts DPH has created printable fact sheets on COVID-19 prevention in English, Spanish, Chinese, Portugese, Hatian Creole, Vietnamese, which can be downloaded here.

Helpful link:

More COVID-19 Resources

Start typing and press Enter to search