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Legislature Passes COVID-19 relief bill to assist the state’s small businesses and workers

This article was published 2 year(s) and 2 month(s) ago.

State representatives and senators representing the Lynn area overwhelmingly support the finalized COVID-19 relief bill to assist Massachusetts’ small businesses still plagued by the ongoing pandemic and its economic fallout.

The bill, enacted in both the House and Senate on March 25, now awaits Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature. Among those supporting the bill are Massachusetts Sen. Brendan Crighton and Reps. Daniel Cahill, Peter Capano, Lori Ehrlich, Donald Wong and Bradley Jones. Together, they represent Lynn, Saugus, Swampscott, Marblehead, Nahant and Lynnfield. 

The relief package calls for a two-year unemployment insurance-rate freeze for employers that would lessen the impact of a scheduled April rate increase. It also waives state taxes on forgiven federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for so-called “pass-through” entities, as well as federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

For employees, the legislation provides access to up to 40 hours of COVID-related emergency paid sick leave, along with tax relief for lower-income workers who collected unemployment in 2020 and 2021. The bill allows those individuals to deduct the first $10,200 in unemployment compensation received in both calendar years.  

“Throughout this pandemic, I have heard from concerned workers who have depended on unemployment assistance to provide for their families and I’ve spoken with many business owners fighting to keep their doors open,” said Crighton. “This legislation reduces the tax burdens on both individuals and businesses and will hopefully provide some financial relief during these trying times. I will continue to work with my colleagues to advocate for additional support for Massachusetts residents.”

Cahill spoke about the devastating effects the pandemic has had on families. 

“This legislation will help struggling businesses as well as those we have been laid off to no fault of their own. I would like to thank Speaker (Ronald) Mariano for helping to pass such strong legislation to help the struggling families in our community.”

Capano said he was especially happy that those who have lost jobs will be helped.

“Along with my colleagues, I am proud we were able to pass legislation that prioritizes support and tax relief for frontline workers, those who have lost their jobs, and struggling small businesses,” he said. “This comprehensive bill will help facilitate a sustainable, equitable, and long-term economic recovery for the Commonwealth and its residents.”

Ehrlich and Wong also praised the bill.

“I’m proud to join my colleagues in passing this significant piece of legislation that, in unprecedented times, sends significant help to struggling people and businesses,” said Ehrlich. 

“This has come at the right time, as we start to file our state taxes,” Wong added. “Helping employers and employees with their state taxes on PPP, insurance, and emergency paid sick leave.” 

Jones said without the bill, employers would face higher unemployment insurance costs.

“Without legislative intervention, employers will see a 60 percent increase in their unemployment insurance costs and many independent contractors, restaurants and small businesses will collectively be facing another $150 million in state taxes on their PPP loans,” Jones said.

Employers will be required to provide emergency paid sick time to employees unable to work due to the coronavirus, including those who are self-isolating; receiving medical treatment or an immunization; recovering from a disability due to COVID-19; complying with a quarantine order; caring for a family member including a domestic partner; or are unable to telework due to COVID-19.

The bill also establishes a COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund, administered by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance and used to reimburse eligible employers for providing emergency paid sick leave, with a maximum reimbursement of $850 a week per employee.

The bill prohibits the Department of Revenue from imposing any tax penalties for 2020 based solely on a failure to remit taxes on unemployment compensation. Taxpayers who have already been assessed the penalty will receive an abatement.

In addition to mitigating the scheduled UI rate increase, the bill authorizes up to $7 billion in borrowing to repay federal UI loans and includes a temporary two-year employer assessment to ensure the state’s UI Trust Fund remains solvent.

The bill requires the Department of Family and Medical Leave to analyze the possibility of expanding the state’s family and medical leave program to provide coverage for future communicable illnesses related to a public health emergency, with a report due by Dec.  31, 2022. It also creates a 21-member special commission to study and develop recommendations for the long-term solvency of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, with a report due by Dec. 15 of this year.

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