Author: jscutler

Update on unemployment for self-employed & 1099 workers

UNEMPLOYMENT FOR SELF EMPLOYED & 1099 WORKERS: We are getting many questions about this. Here’s the latest info: The federal CARES Act approved by Congress extends unemployment benefits to most self-employed &1099 workers (independent contractors). This is great news because these folks are not usually covered by unemployment. The bill was signed into law officially on Friday afternoon. The U.S Department of Labor is right now establishing the rules to send to the states, but they have not yet given a firm update on when that will be finished. Once that happens the states will be implementing this. Here in Massachusetts we expect that our DUA will be incorporating this new benefit into their existing UI program. We know that they are actively working now to have this ready to go. They are not able to give us a firm timeframe since much is dependent on the US Dept. of Labor. I can tell you that they are working around the clock and are well aware that many folks are eager and anxious to begin this process. As soon as we have any more firm details we will post here. Stay tuned and keep checking. Thank you to Sen. Ed Markey’s office for additional info from federal perspective.

COVID-19 Procurement Program

JUST IN: New online portal for donating or selling PPE to support state’s COVID19 relief efforts. This effort will ensure that front line responders get the protective equipment they need to stay and push for more trained volunteers to join the response.

The Commonwealth’s COVID-19 PPE Procurement and Donation Program creates an easy portal allowing companies and organizations to sell or donate protective equipment that is in short supply given the global demands for such items.

By visiting the COVID-19 PPE Procurement and Donation website, businesses and organizations can offer for purchase or donation critically needed personal protective equipment, including:

• N95/N99 masks (respirators)
• Surgical/procedure masks
• Facemasks with integrated shields
• Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR)
• Goggles
• Gloves
• Protective suits/gowns
• Booties/shoe covers
• Headcovers
• Hand sanitizer
• Sanitizing wipes

The initiative announced today bolsters current efforts to leverage traditional and emergency supply chain channels.

The program also provides an entry point for local manufacturers to get more information on adapting their businesses to produce more equipment here in Massachusetts, an effort being led by the administration’s recently established Manufacturing Emergency Response Team.

https://www.mass.gov/forms/covid-19-procurement-program

House Passes Legislation to Move Tax Filing Deadline and Support Municipal Governments

The Mass. House of Representatives has passed legislation to move the individual tax filing and payment deadline, support municipal government operations, and allow alcohol sales for take-out or delivery at restaurants.  

“As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to evolve, the House responded again today to the growing needs of our communities, our businesses, and our residents by easing burdens related to local permitting, extending the state’s tax deadline and giving restaurants more business opportunities,” said Speaker DeLeo (D – Winthrop).

The legislation would extend the individual state tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15.

The legislation includes the following provisions.

  • Permits establishments licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption to sell wine and beer via delivery and take-out provided the wine or beer is sold in the same transaction as a purchase of food and in a sealed container.
  • Modifies local permitting processes, extending municipal tax deadlines, and allowing municipalities to extend property tax exemptions and deferrals.
  • Allows municipalities to activate qualified workers by suspending the cap on hours and compensation for certain retired employees for hours worked during the state of emergency.

“This relief package will give administrative and economic relief to our restaurants, our cities and towns, and to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “As we continue to face the day to day effects of COVID-19, it is vital that we do all that we can to offer assistance to those in need.”

“The bill has several provisions that give towns and municipalities the flexibility they need to allow for extending time frames for town meetings and assessing some kind of temporary leniency with paying taxes and late fees,” said Representative O’Day, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government (D-West Boylston). “I applaud the many adjustments that are addressed in this bill during these very trying times.”

The bill will now go to the Senate.

Extension of School and Child Care Closures and Steps to Ensure Housing Stability

All schools, child care programs will remain closed through May 4

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced new actions to support the ongoing COVID-19 response, including extending the closure of all public and private schools and non-emergency child care programs and steps to protect homeowners and low-income tenants from eviction and foreclosure. The Department of Public Health (DPH) also issued an order relative to pharmacies and grocery stores.

Schools and Non-Emergency Child Care Programs: Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order extending the closure of all public and private schools, and all non-emergency childcare programs, until May 4 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. 

  • This order expands on previous orders issued on March 15 and March 18suspending normal educational operations at schools and non-emergency child care programs until April 6, and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) established a process to approve Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs to serve vulnerable children and families of first responders and essential workers.
  • This closure extends one week beyond scheduled spring vacation week on most school district calendars.
  • The order does not apply to residential special education schools.
  • This extension will allow school administrators and educators added planning time to ensure students can complete course requirements, as well as provide teachers with time to expand remote learning opportunities.

Read the Orders here: K-12 School Order | Early Education School Order

Remote Learning and Education: During this time, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is requesting that educators continue to develop and assemble high-quality educational materials to provide students with effective remote learning resources through the month of April. The Department is also creating a model for districts to use and modify in collaboration with local stakeholders to fit their school district’s needs, and will continue to work with schools to identify best practices for implementing effective remote learning.  

Remote learning encompasses a wide variety of learning methods, including both analog and online. While technology is an excellent tool, districts should also consider ways students can continue to learn offline.

This could include exploring nature, activities to support students’ local communities (with appropriate social distancing) and engaging in hands-on projects and artistic creations that stem from students’ experiences.

Additionally, through a new partnership between DESE and WGBH, educational resources will be posted on the department’s website, and middle and high school students can access WGBH and WGBY educational programming on WGBH andWGBY on the WORLD channel from noon to 5 p.m.

Housing Stability for Vulnerable Populations: The Baker-Polito Administration announced steps to keep vulnerable families in their homes, preserve the health and safety of low-income renters and homeowners, and prevent homelessness due to reduced or lost income. These steps include the following:

  • DHCD is moving to temporarily suspend terminations of federal and state rental vouchers under their purview.
  • MassHousing is transferring $5 million to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for a COVID-19 Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) fund to assist families facing rent insecurity.
  • The Division of Banks (DOB) has issued new guidance to Massachusetts financial institutions and lenders urging them to provide relief for borrowers and will advocate for a 60-day stay on behalf of all homeowners facing imminent foreclosure on their homes.
  • DHCD is issuing guidance recommending that all owners of state aided low-income housing, including Local Housing Authorities and private owners, suspend both pending non-essential evictions and the filing of any new non-essential evictions.
  • Affordable housing operators are urged to suspend non-essential evictions for loss of income or employment circumstances resulting in a tenant’s inability to make rent.
  • This guidance urges operators to establish reasonable payment plans, notify Section 8 or public housing residents about interim income recertification to adjust rent payments, and to consider offering relief funding for residents ineligible for income reassessment.

Read the DHCD Guidance Here:

Guidance to owners of state aided low-income housing

Guidance to affordable housing operators

Notices and guidance regarding federal and state rental assistance programs:

Read the DOB Guidance Here.

Pharmacies and Grocery Stores: Today, DPH issued a new order to support pharmacies and grocery stores and their employees during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This order will require grocery stores and pharmacies to:

  • Provide at least one hour per day of shopping for adults over 60-years-old.
  • Offer sanitation options, such as hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, as available, to clean shopping carts and points of frequent contact.
  • Appropriate social distancing policies, including a marked “Social Distancing Line,” beginning six feet away from all checkout counters.
  • Close any self-serve food stations.
  • Instruct store employees who are ill to stay home, and for stores to accommodate employees who fall in the high-risk category with alternative assignments to limit exposure.

Read the Order Here.

The Administration will continue to update the public on further developments and individuals are encouraged to consult both the Department of Public Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for the most up to date information.

The latest information and guidance regarding COVID-19 is always available at mass.gov/COVID19.

Governor files Legislation to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts During COVID-19 Outbreak

BOSTON – Today, the Baker-Polito Administration filed An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and School Districts Resulting from COVID-19,which would provide administrative relief to state and local government entities impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, including modifying local permitting processes, enabling municipalities to extend tax and finance deadlines, and extending deadlines for certain education requirements.  

Full details on proposed changes in the legislation include:

  • Suspending the cap on hours and compensation for retired employees collecting a pension for hours worked during the state of emergency, allowing municipalities to tap qualified workers when their workforces might be disrupted. 
  • Permitting establishments licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption to sell wine and beer by take-out and delivery, provided that the wine or beer is sold in the original sealed container, is sold in the same transaction as a purchase of food and is not over certain volume limitations.
  • Providing that no permit is automatically granted, approved, or denied because a local permitting authority is unable to act within a time period required by law.
  • Providing that any permit that is currently valid will not lapse or expire during the state of emergency and suspends any time limitation on such permits during the emergency.
  • Allowing applications for permits to be filed electronically, to eliminate the need for in-person filing.
  • Suspending any requirement that a hearing on a permit application be held within a certain period until 45 days after the end of the state of emergency.
  • Extending municipal tax deadlines by allowing municipalities to waive late-payment penalties for 4th quarter tax bills, which are due May 1. In addition, municipalities could change their tax bill due date from April 1 to June 1.
  • Allowing municipalities to extend the deadline for property tax exemptions and deferrals. The current statutory deadline is April 1, and this would allow municipalities to extend it to June 1.
  • Permitting Regional School Districts to suspend the statutorily-required vote on the approval of their fiscal year 2021 budget and allowing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to certify an amount sufficient for the operation of the district, until a budget can be adopted.
  • Modifying the MCAS by permitting the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education upon recommendation of the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to modify or waive the required competency determination for high school graduation. The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education would also be allowed to modify or waive the MCAS testing requirement.
  • Extending a Student Opportunity Act deadline by permitting the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to extend the April 1, 2020 deadline for each district to submit its first 3-year plan to address “persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups.” 
  • Permitting electronic signatures for search warrants and criminal complaints. Allowing electronic signatures in these situations would result in less traffic in courthouses and reduce in-person encounters, while still allowing the criminal process to continue.
  • Extending the dates by which the MBTA must approve a preliminary budget and submit a final budget to better align with the Commonwealth’s budget process.

Legislature gives cities and towns new flexibility to reschedule municipal elections

The House and Senate passed legislation to help protect public health by providing cities and towns the authority to postpone and reschedule certain municipal elections and related activities.  The bill now goes to the Governor.

The House also issued orders to reschedule two special state elections until June 2, 2020.  The Senate issued an order to reschedule two state special elections until May 19, 2020.

The legislation includes guidelines for public notification of rescheduled election dates, voter registration deadlines, absentee ballots processing, and the display of sample ballots. The legislation:

  • Allows municipal governments to postpone caucus or certain elections scheduled before May 30, 2020 and reschedule the caucus or elections to a date prior to June 30, 2020.
  • Allows any eligible voter to vote early by mail for elections occurring before June 30, 2020.

“Massachusetts took action to not only preserve our elections system, but to protect public health during this historic public health emergency,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop).  “We appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka and the work of Chair Lawn on this COVID-19-related public health issue.”

“Even as we confront this unprecedented public health crisis, we continue to hold up the fundamental ideal that the right to vote should be cherished and protected,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This emergency law gives cities and towns the flexibility they need to postpone municipal elections while maintaining options that maximize voter protections and participation. I’d like to thank everyone in the House and Senate who worked quickly and thoughtfully to move this legislation forward.”

“The legislation the House passed today minimizes the disruption of COVID-19 on democracy in the Commonwealth,” said Representative John Lawn, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Elections (D-Watertown).  “It empowers municipalities to postpone and reschedule over 150 upcoming elections. It also protects voters and increases participation by expanding absentee and early voting options.  The voices of Massachusetts voters will be heard despite the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19.”

Gov. Baker exempt business list

Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public as of Tuesday, March 24th at noon until Tuesday, April 7th at noon. These businesses are encouraged to continue operations remotely.

Categories of COVID-19 Essential Services:

  • Health Care & Public Health
  • Law Enforcement, Public Safety & First Responders
  • Food & Agriculture
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Transportation 
  • Energy
  • Water & Wastewater
  • Public Works
  • Communications and Information Technology
  • Financial Services
  • Defense Industry Base
  • Chemical Manufacturing & Hazardous Materials
  • Other Designated Community Based Essential Function & Government Operations
  • News Media

Here is PDF with Gov. Baker’s list of essential services: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services