COVID-19 Resources

Updated as information is received.

March 31st, 2020
Important Message for Small Business from Eversource

Important Message on Eversource Measures to Lessen Financial Hardships for Customers
During this challenging time for all of us, Eversource is providing several measures that will lessen the financial hardship on all our customers, including small businesses—the backbone of our communities. In addition to postponing customer disconnections for non-payment and assisting customers with financial programs to help pay their bill, Eversource is also providing extended payment arrangements for small business customers.  In normal operations, small business customers get up to three months for bill payment arrangements. To support small business customers through the COVID-19 crisis, Eversource is offering a $0 down payment and a 12-month payment arrangement, with the first payment not due until June 1. The reliability of our essential service has never been more important than it is today during these uncertain times. With many people working from home, and students studying remotely, customers are increasingly relying on electronic devices to accomplish their goals. Throughout the health crisis, be assured that Eversource is taking strict personal and public safety measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while also performing essential tasks to ensure all our customers have a safe and reliable energy system. Essential work is that which maintains or improves the condition of our energy system to ensure safe and reliable service to customers. Examples include replacement of electrical lines, poles, and other equipment; installation of automated switches that speed restoration of customers following an outage; new utility connections; vegetation management along electric lines; repair of natural gas leaks; replacement and upgrade of natural gas lines and other equipment; and work mandated by law or regulation or as required by regional electric grid operator ISO-New England. During this time, we are rescheduling all planned outages, as well as routine non-outage, service-related work inside residence or business. We are also reducing non-critical field work in our gas operations that requires access to homes or businesses. Eversource is proud to be part of the communities we serve, and we are committed to serving all our customers during this difficult and uncertain time.

March 30th, 2020

Federal Resources
President Trump signed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act”. There are several provisions that impact employers. These measures are largely aimed at stimulating the economy and focus on assistance for small businesses and individual taxpayers. 

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act
Bill Unemployment Compensation Provisions Fact Sheet and FAQ
FAQs on Direct Cash Payments to Americans
The U.S. Chamber has developed a Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist. This is the first of a number of resources they are developing to help connect members with the resources recently approved by Congress to respond to the ongoing pandemic.


State Resources
On Friday, the House passed a bill, H 4598 that would extended the state income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. This is a provision that that Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka and House Speaker DeLeo already agreed to. The bill will also give restaurants the ability to sell beer and wine via take-out or delivery and give municipalities more flexibility around property tax deadlines.

The Senate is planning to meet today to continue the work on a handful of other COVID-19 related bills.

For the latest State updates click: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-resources-and-guidance-for-businesses?mc_cid=d2511fc162&mc_eid=9c813955e5

City of Cambridge Resources
Grant applications are available for a new Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. The program is designed to provide short-term working capital assistance to enable the viability of the business and retention of jobs during the severe interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information click here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/News/2020/3/smallbusinesscovid19reliefgrant
Over the weekend there were important clarifications to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) exclusions for small businesses under 50 employees via the Department of Labor Q&A page. 

Additionally, this email has some broad outlines of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act benefits for small business.

DOL CLARIFICATIONS to FFCRA Exemptions from Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave:

58. When does the small business exemption apply to exclude a small business from the provisions of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees (small business) is exempt from providing paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that:

1.     The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity; 


2.     The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or 

3.     There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.
 
59. If I am a small business with fewer than 50 employees, am I exempt from the requirements to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

A small business is exempt from certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements if providing an employee such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. This means a small business is exempt from mandated paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave requirements only if the: [CIP Emphasis Added]
employer employs fewer than 50 employees;
leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; and
an authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the three conditions described in Question 58 is satisfied.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to reach the best solution for maintaining the business and ensuring employee safety. 


As with previous information, this is subject to change – remember this is Q&A guidance and it does not have the authority of official rule making.

CARES ACT SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE
 
The Paycheck Protection Program
The maximum loan amount available to employers and other eligible recipients will be in an amount that is equal to roughly 2.5 months of the applicant-employer’s average “Payroll Costs.” The loan cannot exceed a total of $10 Million. For the purposes of calculating an eligible borrower’s maximum loan amount, “Payroll Costs” under the law is defined as:
 
Salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation;
Payment of cash, tip, or equivalent;
Payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave (not including payments made under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA))
Allowance for dismissal or separation;
Payment required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums;
Payment of any retirement benefit; or 
Payment of State or local tax assessed on the compensation of employees (the government will not pay the payroll taxes that an employer owes the federal government.); and
The sum of payment of any compensation to or income of a sole proprietor that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation that is not more than $100,000 in 1 year, as pro-rated for the covered period. 

Importantly, any compensation received by an individual employee, independent contractor, or self-employed individual, in excess of an annual salary of $100,000 may not be included in either the initial calculation of payroll costs nor can it be included for purposes of obtaining loan forgiveness.


Loan recipients may use the proceeds to cover specified business costs with the potential of obtaining up to 100% in loan forgiveness. In other words, if an employer or other eligible borrower uses the loan proceeds to cover the costs that Congress is encouraging them to cover, the debt will be completely cancelled. 

Those costs include:
Payroll costs; 
Payments related to the continuation of group healthcare benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums; 
Employee salaries (excluding compensation amounts in excess of $100,000), commissions, or similar compensation;
Payments of interest on any mortgage obligation (not including interest on any prepayment of or payment of principal on a mortgage obligation);
Rent (including rent under a lease agreement);
Utilities; and 
Interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the loan began. 

Employers who apply and accept a loan under this program should be aware that if they subsequently reduce the number of employees on their payroll, reduce the pay of their employees, or both, the total amount of loan forgiveness available to them will face a potential corresponding reduction. 

The CARES Act also expands access to SBA Express Loan and expands Eligibility under the Small Business Act to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)

In addition to the incentives for employers to retain their workforce through favorable loans and loan forgiveness, the CARES Act includes tax incentives for employers.

The CARES Act provides employers with a refundable payroll tax credit of 50% on qualified wages (including health benefits) paid to employees between March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The payroll tax credit will apply to the first $10,000 in eligible compensation.

In order to be deemed eligible for the payroll tax credit, the employer must:

Have had its operations fully or partially suspended as a result of a COVID-19 related shut down order; or 
Have incurred a decline in gross receipts by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in the prior year. 

The payroll tax credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employees. Whether or not the employer has paid “qualified wages” will depend on the number of employees employed by the company.


For employers with more than 100 full-time employees – qualified wages are wages that are paid to employees, despite the fact that they are not providing services due to a COVID-19 related shut down order.

For Employers with 100 or less employees – qualified wages will be paid to employees, whether the employer is open for business or not. 

Employers, including self-employed individuals, will also be allowed under the CARES Act to defer their share of Social Security taxes paid on their employees’ wages over the course of two years. Half of all deferred Social Security taxes must be paid by December 31, 2021, while the second half of all deferred Social Security tax payments must be paid by December 31, 2022. 

March 27th, 2020
Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program (City of Cambridge)

  • The Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program is a special program helping Cambridge’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (or HUD) eligible retail, food, personal services, and creative for-profit businesses with a grant up to $6,000 per brick and mortar business. The program provides short-term working capital assistance to help the viability of businesses and the retention of jobs during the severe interruption of business related to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social distancing. 
  • Grant applications are only available starting March 26, 2020 until May 1, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. EST. This program is first come, first served. There is no guarantee that you will receive a grant. 
  • Grant Overview: The COVID-19 Relief Grant Program must help contribute to a small business’s ability to remain open and with employee retention. Each completed grant application will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Grant applicants may apply for one or more of the following eligible working capital assistance:
  • Paying for mortgage, rent and other bills (utilities, accounts payable)Employee wages. Resources to get business established online (for example, a business needed to revamp website to make e-commerce or delivery available to customers)Perishable inventory that was lost due to an interruption of business.
  • Other items may be allowed upon review by city staff and HUD.
  • Click here for more information on the program, including the application.
  • Questions? Contact Pardis Saffari.

March 26th, 2020

Department of Labor Online Dialogue about EFMLA.


The U.S. Department of Labor is hosting a national online dialogue, Providing Expanded Family and Medical Leave to Employees Affected by COVID-19, to help employers and workers understand their responsibilities and rights, respectively, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The public, including employers, workers and their advocacy groups can participate in this national online dialogue through Sunday, March 29, 2020.


The Department’s Office of Compliance Initiatives (OCI), in partnership with WHD and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), will host the online dialogue.


Please register to participate.


 Unemployment Tax Control Associates “Virtual Office Hours”


Roughly 148,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts last week, according to federal data published Thursday. During the same week a year ago, just more than 4,200 people in Massachusetts filed for unemployment benefits.


According to the Boston Business Journal, 16% of Massachusetts residents report losing their job since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, a stunning number considering where the economy was even at the start of this month. More stunning is that this poll was taken before non-essential businesses were ordered to close on March 24. 


Unemployment Tax Control Associates (UTCA) is holding virtual “office hours” Friday, March 27, 2020 from 1:30 PM to 2:00 PM EDT where you can ask questions and gain a greater understanding of the claims process. 


Click here for additional information


Telemedicine Resources.


CIP has a Telemedicine Resources page on our website to assist our clients and friends. Insurance carriers have options for their subscribers to virtually meet with a doctor via their telemedine or telehealth options. Many carriers are waiving the office co-pay charges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  


How do I count employees for FFCRA?


The DOL FAQ counts number of employees at the time the leave is taken.


Additionally, the DOL FAQ clarifies that a corporation (including its separate establishments or divisions) is considered to be a single employer and its employees must each be counted towards the 500-employee threshold.


Where a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two corporations are separate employers unless they meet the “joint employers” test under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) with respect to certain employees.


The FLSA joint employer test is a fact-specific analysis that looks at a variety of relevant factors, including, without limitation, the extent to which each entity:
Hires or fires the employee;
Supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment to a substantial degree;
Determines the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
Maintains the employee’s employment records.


If two entities are considered joint employers, all common employees must be counted to determine whether the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLEA benefits must be provided.


Two or more entities may also be considered one employer if they meet the “integrated employer test” under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). Like the FLSA’s joint employer test, the FMLA integrated employer test is a fact-specific analysis that considers, without limitation, the following factors:


Interrelation of operations, i.e., common offices, common record keeping, shared bank accounts and equipment;
Common management, common directors and boards;
Centralized control of labor relations and personnel, i.e., hire and fire employees; and,
Common ownership and financial control.


If two entities are an integrated employer under the FMLA, then employees of both entities making up the integrated employer must be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency FMLEA.


Employers should consult an attorney before making a determination that they meet the “joint employer” or “integrated employer” test for purposes of the FFCRA as may have implications as to the applicability of other employment laws and/or legal requirements under other laws to its business.


DOL EFMLA Poster. We highlighted that the Department of Labor released the model Coronavirus Response Act poster in a mailing yesterday.
 
The poster further highlights the $12,000 total cap placed on leave related to child care due to school/daycare closures. The DOL had previously made clear that an employee taking leave for this reason would be entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave, and $12,000 total, including both emergency paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave. As of right now, the presumption is that regular FMLA and EFMLA time would run concurrently and would not subject employers to “stack” the leave entitlements to create a 24-week requirement. 
 
Covered employers must post notice of the FFCRA’s requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises.
 
The DOL has indicated that an employer may satisfy this requirement by
emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, OR
posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website.
 
Employers are not required to post the notice in multiple languages, but the DOL is working on translating the poster. Further, employers need not share the notice with laid-off employees or new job applicants, but it must give notice to new hires. All covered employers must post this notice even if their state provides greater protections than the FFCRA.

March 25th, 2020


The congressional response to the COVID-19 outbreak continues while the agencies tasked with administering recently passed legislation have begun issuing guidance or in the case of the IRS issuing parameters around which they will be issuing guidance. Addressed in this CIP update, the Department of Labor application of sick and family leave provisions, IRS announcement on tax credits and EEOC guidance on Coronavirus practices.

The full text of pending legislation including $2-Trillion in Coronavirus related spending which apparently includes direct payments and increased support for unemployment insurance has not been released. This alert does not discuss pending legislation.

Here is what we do know:

The Sick Leave and Family Leave Provisions Start April 1.

In a Frequently Asked Questions page released late yesterday the US DOL has set the effective date of the paid time off requirement of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as April 1, 2020 – this is a day earlier than had been expected.

Not Retroactive. Another key point made in the FAQs is that the requirements are NOT retroactive meaning there is no requirement to pay for time off before April 1, 2020. This means that sick leave taken and paid before April 1 will not be reimbursable as it currently stands.  The FFCRA states the leave provisions “shall take effect not later than 15 days after the date of enactment.” As the FFCRA was signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020, it was plausible in the absence of other communication by the DOL that it would be April 2, 2020.

The DOL gave no reason why it chose to move up implementation by one day, but it could be to line up the effective date of the law with the calendar quarter.

Emergency FMLA and Emergency Sick Leave runs concurrently.

The qualifying reason for leave under the Emergency FMLA involves caring for a child when their school or place of care is closed. One of the six qualifying reasons for Emergency Paid Sick Leave similarly addresses this same reason. The DOL clarifies that if taking EFMLA leave, and the first 10 days are covered under Emergency Sick Leave, the total leave is a maximum of 12-Weeks.

Do I have 500 Employees? 

The DOL provides the opinion that an employer is covered if, at the time the leave is to be taken (a “snapshot” approach), the business employs fewer than 500 employees. Moreover, the analysis addresses important issues regarding whether separate entities are counted as one employer for purposes of the new leave laws.

First, the DOL states that if two entities are found to be “joint employers” under the FLSA, all of their common employees must be counted in determining whether leave must be provided under for Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave

The DOL document also states that if two entities are an “integrated employer” under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), all of the employees of the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of Emergency Family and Medical Leave.

The “joint employer” analysis under the FLSA and the “integrated employer” analysis under the FMLA are complicated and involve a critical analysis of specific facts.

The DOL also released a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Fact Sheet for Employees. Expected today, but possibly later this week, they will be releasing a workplace poster required under the law and additional fact sheets and Q&A documents so check back at DOL’s webpage for those. 

Emergency guidance related to small business exemptions related to leave expected. 

The Act provides an exemption for businesses with less than 50 employees from leave requirements related to school and daycare closings where the leave requirements would threaten the viability of the business. The DOL plans to issue guidance with “simple and clear criteria” on the qualifications related to this exemption.

Tax Credits.

The IRS has announced employers they will be issuing guidance this week to address the cash flow challenge for business. This guidance will allow employers to retain an amount of payroll taxes equal to the amount of paid leave INCLUDING HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS they paid rather than deposit them with the IRS in anticipation of the tax credits. The announcement outlines the following:
 
Complete Coverage:
·        Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.
·        Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.
·        Employers face no payroll tax liability.
·        Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.

Fast Funds

·        Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.
·        An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided
·        Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.

Small Business Protection. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.

Compliance Requirements subject to 30-day non-enforcement period for good faith compliance efforts.
To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week

ADA Compliance under COVID Pandemic.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) has issued revised guidelines that define Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) compliance standards for employers operating under current COVID-19 pandemic conditions.

In general, the ADA broadly restricts business decisions that consider employee health or medical conditions. 

Through the guidelines, the EEOC has temporarily suspended certain ADA restrictions in an effort to permit “Essential Businesses” – businesses that are exempted from various shelter-in-place and business restrictions order now in effect in several regions – to adopt practical strategies to maintain safe business operations.

These guidelines deal with employee inquiries regarding COVID-19 symptoms, workplace infection control strategies, reasonable accommodation requests by employees unrelated to COVID, and hiring practices.

Please note:
This notice provides an overview of a specific developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as legal advice. Please also be advised that any and all information, comments, analysis, and/or recommendations set forth above relative to the possible impact of COVID-19 on potential insurance coverage or other policy implications are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

Comments above do not take into account any pending or future legislation introduced with the intent to override, alter or amend current policy language. 

March 23rd, 2020

COVID-19 Executive Orders Issued by Gov. Baker

Details Govern What’s Acceptable in Public Health Crisis

Colin A. Young 3/20/20 4:07 PM

BOSTON, MARCH 20, 2020…..In the last week and a half, state government has taken steps unprecedented in recent times to attempt to staunch the spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus and those efforts have resulted in a dramatic departure from daily life for most Massachusetts residents.

Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered all schools closed until April, mandated that restaurants close their dining rooms and shift to delivery and take-out only, eased licensing rules to bulk up the health care workforce, banned gatherings — first of 250 people or more, then more than 25 people — freed public boards and commissions of some Open Meeting Law requirements, and gave pharmacies the green light to make and sell their own hand sanitizer.

Starting with the March 10 declaration of a state of emergency around the coronavirus, here are the executive and emergency orders issued by Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel and the governor:

March 10 —
Executive Order No. 591: Declaration of a State of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19

March 11 —
New licensure policy from the Board of Registration in Nursing

March 12 —
Order of the Public Health Commissioner restricting visitor access to nursing homes and rest homes to protect higher-risk populations from COVID-19

Order suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law

March 13 —
Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people

March 15 —
Order temporarily closing all public and private elementary and secondary schools

Order expanding access to telehealth services and to protect health care providers

Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people and on-premises consumption of food or drink

Order authorizing the registrar of motor vehicles to temporarily extend licenses, permits, and other identification cards

Order of the Public Health Commissioner mandating that hospitals must cancel non-essential elective procedures

Order of the Public Health Commissioner permitting licensed pharmacies to create and sell hand sanitizer over the counter

Order of the Public Health Commissioner restricting visitor access to assisted living facilities

Order of the Public Health Commissioner restricting some visitor access to hospitals

March 17 —
Order extending the registrations of certain licensed health care professionals

Order expanding access to physician services

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health providing for continuity of emergency medical services care

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health implementing emergency credentialing and licensed staff transferprocedures for medical facilities in the commonwealth

March 18 —
Order of the Commissioner of Public Health regarding the administration of certain medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health regarding the flexible reassignment of physician assistants

Order temporarily closing all child care programs and authorizing the temporary creation and operation of an emergency child care program

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health regarding the sharing of critical information with first responders

March 20 —
Order authorizing actions to reduce in-person transactions associated with the licensing, registration, and inspection of motor vehicles. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said during a Friday afternoon press conference that the order “allows the registrar to extend vehicle registrations, and modify the conditions of registrations, plates and titles, and it also allows the registrar and the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to waive certain inspection requirements.”

Order permitting the temporary conditional deferral of certain inspections of residential real estate

Others —
The Baker administration this week also issued guidance for executive branch workers regarding remote work policies and the designation of essential employees. On Friday, the Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services sent a bulletin to local officials with guidance on emergency expenditures related to COVID-19.

March 20th, 2020

Baker-Polito Administration Announces New Health Care Resources, Small Business Relief, Other Efforts To Support COVID-19 Response

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced new actions to support the ongoing COVID-19 response, including new financial support for health care providers, expanded relief for small businesses, and a new federal waiver request to give the state expanded flexibility to respond to the public health emergency. The Administration also joined life sciences leaders to highlight a new partnership aimed at providing additional supplies for hospitals.

The Administration also announced new tax penalty relief for businesses, further action to limit the need for customers to visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles in person, and other initiatives to support the Commonwealth’s residents and communities throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Financial Support For Health Care Providers: The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center continues to identify and prioritize efforts to ensure the Commonwealth’s health care system has the resources it needs to support the response to COVID-19. Today, the Administration announced a $200 million infusion in cash at MassHealth for critical, acute care and safety-net health care providers, as well as for certain health care providers required to help ensure that our members receiving care in the community or nursing facilities do not need to go to the hospital. These will be accelerated payments and cash advances for immediate, stopgap relief to ensure the front-line health care system is able to provide necessary resources to patients.

Emergency Supply Hub: Life sciences industry leaders joined the Administration today to highlight the new Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub. MassBio, in partnership with MassMEDIC, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, launched the Supply Hub to help coordinate efforts aimed at bringing additional supplies and resources to the Commonwealth’s health care institutions as they test and treat patients with COVID-19. The initiative calls on life sciences and health care organizations in the state to donate supplies needed to combat COVID-19. MassBio will share information with the Department of Public Health to triage and connect supplies with those healthcare providers that need them.

New Drive-Through Testing Site: On Thursday, the Commonwealth’s first large-scale drive-thru COVID-19 testing site launched at CVS in Shrewsbury. The new site is the result of an ongoing partnership between the Baker-Polito Administration, the federal government, local health authorities and CVS. The site is designated for emergency personnel and first responders, expanding testing access to front line workers. Currently, this site is one of over 40 sites launching throughout the country over the next week, with test kits supplied by the federal government.

MassHealth Waiver & Other Requests: Massachusetts is filing a waiver request today with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that will give the state and its Medicaid program, MassHealth, more flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis. If allowed, the waiver would enable the Commonwealth to fast-track MassHealth enrollment, streamline administrative requirements for providers, and deliver critically needed health care services easier during the COVID-19 emergency. Through the waiver request and other federal requests, the Commonwealth is seeking flexibility to address key areas of need:

  • Allow for non-traditional sites of care to expand surge capacity, such as use of testing tents and overflow hospital sites
  • Allow new providers, including out of state providers, a streamlined pathway to practice in the state including caring for MassHealth members
  • Allow physician assistants to practice independently
  • Provide flexibility to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities to meet increasing demand
  • Expand MassHealth Hospital-Determined Presumptive Eligibility to all individuals – which MassHealth already expanded through a public health order last week – including children, older adults, and individuals who have received MassHealth benefits within the past 12 months
  • Allow medications to be delivered to members, and waive a signature requirement for these prescriptions
  • Waive face-to-face requirements for certain services, including Home and Community Based Services, and behavioral health evaluations for Schedule II-IV prescriptions

In addition, the Administration announced that MassHealth and the Health Connector will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18, 2020 and for all individuals approved for coverage during the national emergency.

Expanded Small Business Resources: Earlier this week, the Administration announced a $10 Million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund to provide financial relief to small businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. Today, the Administration announced that MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors will meet next week to vote on a partnership that will make an additional $10 million available for the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund.

The state-level emergency loan fund is aimed at providing crucial resources for small businesses that will supplement important federal relief. Governor Baker on Tuesday formally requested disaster relief from the federal Small Business Administration, and with this week’s announcement that that request had been granted, Massachusetts businesses impacted by COVID-19 may now apply for low-interest loans.

Tax Relief for Businesses: The Baker-Polito Administration is announcing tax penalty relief to support businesses affected by COVID-19. The Department of Revenue today 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.

Limiting Need For In-Person RMV Visits: The Administration today is taking further action to limit the need for customers to visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles in person. Today, Governor Baker issued an order allowing the Registrar to extend vehicle registrations and modify the conditions of registrations, plates and titles. It also enables the waiver of certain inspection requirements.

Workforce Guidance For Schools: Earlier this week, Governor Baker ordered all elementary and secondary schools to close for educational purposes until April 6. Recognizing that local school districts employ a significant number of hourly employees, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today is issuing guidance to local school districts recommending they continue paying hourly employees, while suggesting they continue to engage in professional development.

Smoke Alarm Inspections: Governor Baker today issued an order making a change to the inspection statutes that require a smoke and carbon dioxide alarm inspection prior to a residential real estate transaction. The Order would permit the inspection to be deferred if the buyer contractually assumes responsibility for installing the detectors and the subsequent inspection happens within 90 days of the conclusion of the COVID-19 emergency



Please note that this information is current as of the date of this update, based on the available data. As an evolving and fluid situation, there are likely more updates forthcoming as regulatory guidance is expected.

FEDERAL CORONAVIRUS LEGISLATION

Employers will be provided refundable tax credits against their employer portion of Social Security taxes for 100% of the qualified sick leave and family leave wages paid in accordance with the Act. EMPLOYERS MAY PAY MORE than the mandated compensation, but they will not receive tax credit relief for this additional compensation.

For non-governmental employers with less than 500 employees, this is a credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick/family leave wages paid, subject to those limits. The credit is further increased by specified health expenses (e.g. employer paid health premiums), plus the 1.45% employer Medicare tax.

This applies to federal employment taxes usually due within a few days of each payroll. This provides the funds needed to pay sick and family leave benefits.

Payments received under these benefits are considered wages but exempt from Employer Social Security taxes. They are subject to Medicare taxes, but the tax credit is increased by the tax amount.

As stipulated within the bill, the mandate is effective until December 31, 2020, which means benefits cannot carry over into the next year, 2021.

The bill which ultimately became law has some clarifications and differences from the original legislation passed by the House.

Emergency Sick Leave:

All eligible employees may use paid sick time beginning on April 2 for the following reasons:

A. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

B. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;

C. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;

D. The employee is caring for an individual who is either (1) subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or (2) has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;

E. The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions;

F. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Employers may not require eligible employees to first use other paid leave provided by the employer before using paid sick leave under the Act, so this leave is in addition to any paid sick leave or PTO currently provided by employers. 

Employers may require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue receiving such paid sick time after the first workday (or portion thereof) an employee receives paid sick time under this Act. 

In other words, employers may not require employees to provide advance notice prior to the first workday on which the employee takes paid sick leave under the Act.

An employer may not require, as a condition of providing the paid sick time, that an employee search for or find a replacement to cover for the hours during which the employee is using the paid sick time. This is also true under Massachusetts sick leave law.

The payment is calculated based on the employee’s “required compensation” (i.e. the employee’s regular rate of pay or the federal, state or local minimum wage, whichever is greater) and the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work. Pay standards differ in certain situations, such as if an employee is using the time to care for a family member.

Employers must post a notice that advises employees of their rights under the Act. The Secretary of Labor is required to create a notice by March 25. We will update you when this becomes available.

There is language allowing regulations to exclude emergency responders and/or businesses with less than 50 employees where the requirements would jeopardize that business as a going concern. But at this time, no such exclusions apply.

Emergency Paid Family Medical Leave:

On a temporary basis, the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act amends the FMLA and creates a new leave entitlement. Even though this is an expansion of the FMLA, the Act’s paid leave requirements do not to apply to employers with 500 or more employees. Only those employers with fewer than 500 employees are impacted. 

Under normal circumstances, the Family and Medical Leave Act applies only to employers with 50 or more employees, applies only to employees who have worked for at least 12 months and who had worked at least 1,250 hours during that preceding 12 months, and provides unpaid leave for designated reasons, such as the employees own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to care for a newborn infant or an adopted child or foster child placed with the employee. 

For FMLA Covered employers, this EFMLA leave would run concurrently with standard FMLA – these leaves are not stacked and do not create a potential for 24-weeks of leave.

For purposes of the new entitlement only, the Act alters the definition of employer to include all employers with fewer than 500 employees, and expands the definition of a covered employee to include all employees who have worked for covered employers (i.e., those with less than 500 employees) for at least 30 days.

Quarantine will not trigger the Emergency FMLA leave provisions, although there may be traditional, unpaid FMLA leave rights available, as well as unemployment insurance. 

Emergency FMLA Leave Only for Child Care Disruption.

Earlier versions of the Act provided for additional qualifying situations including an employee’s quarantine, and did not provide for telework,

The revised text only provides for one qualifying condition: An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave if he/she is unable to work (including telework) because the employee must care for his/her child who is under 18 years of age and whose school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

The Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt from the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act certain health care providers and emergency responders, and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the Act would jeopardize a business’s viability, but at this time, no such exclusions apply.

Calculating Emergency FMLA Pay

Part-time: Average hours the employee works over a 2-week period

Variable work schedules: Average hours the employee was scheduled per day over the 6-month period ending on the date on which the employee takes such leave including hours for which the employee took any type of leave. If less than 6-month of work history, a “reasonable expectation of the employee at the time of hiring.”

For employers with 25 or more employees, an employee returning from expanded FMLA leave is entitled to reinstatement to the same or an equivalent position. 

For employers with fewer than 25 employees, an employee returning from expanded FMLA leave is entitled to reinstatement to the position held by the employee when the leave commenced unless that position does not exist due to economic conditions or other changes in operating conditions caused by the public health emergency. In such case, the employer must make reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position, and if those efforts fail, make reasonable efforts for at least a year to contact the employee if an equivalent position becomes available.

TRACKING PAID LEAVE:

if you are setting up your own earnings codes related to H.R.. 6201 “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” we would recommend you use the following pay code names:

FF-PSL (Families First Paid Sick Leave) or FF-FMLA (Family First FMLA)

You should avoid using COVID or COVID-19 for privacy reasons as these codes do show on employees pay statements.

IRS Response to COVID-19:

Payment Deadline Extended to July 15, 2020. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are providing special payment relief to individuals and businesses in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak.

The filing deadline for tax returns remains April 15, 2020. The IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible. For those who can’t file by the April 15, 2020 deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request a six-month extension to file their return.

More at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/payment-deadline-extended-to-july-15-2020

Massachusetts

HB 4502  Appropriates $95,000 for the Executive Office of Education to contain, treat and prevent the coronavirus. This bill requires a report to the legislature by June 1, 2020, with recommendations if additional funds and action are needed. Enacted.

HB 4561  Makes appropriations for the fiscal year 2020 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for other activities and projects. Includes a reserve of $15,000,000 to support the commonwealth’s monitoring, treatment, containment, public awareness and prevention efforts against COVID-19. Enacted.

SB 2599  Authorizes waiver of the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits. Enacted.

SB 2602  Provides any public safety official and 1st responder, who contracts, has symptoms of, or otherwise becomes affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), that results in a period of hospitalization, quarantine, or require self-quarantined measures as a result of being infected or coming into contact with someone who is infected with this virus, shall have their medical condition or incapacity to work presumed to be work-related. Public safety official shall not be required to use sick time, vacation time, or personal time to cover said period of incapacitation or inability to perform regular duty work. Pending.


Alert:  Do I Have Coverage For Coronavirus-Related Income Losses To My Business?

Businesses are in crisis over the Coronavirus.  Many have been shut down, whether by lack of employees and customers or by governmental order.  Some of our business clients have asked whether they have coverage for income losses (a/k/a “Business Interruption Insurance”) resulting from business closures and/or supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. 

The short, not particularly helpful answer is “It Depends.” The slightly longer answer is: “There’s probably no coverage for general income losses under most policies, but there are potential exceptions under some policies and for some categories of income loss.” 

In this alert we address the slightly longer answer and identify some of the potential exceptions.  This alert may be helpful in understanding where your options lie, or in evaluating loss of income coverage options for your business in the future. However, there is no substitute for a specific evaluation from your counsel. 

One reason for the inability to be definitive is that Business Interruption Insurance comes in many different forms. The insuring provisions, exclusions, and other provisions are not standardized and require careful analysis.

Historically, the most common form of insurance for business property (buildings and contents) was so-called “Fire Insurance.” This kind of coverage became largely standardized by state statute, with Massachusetts leading the way in 1873.  Such fire policies originally only provided coverage for a single peril – fire — and the insurer paid the cost to repair or replace the physical property (building and contents). Eventually property insurance expanded to cover other perils and other damages, including the economic losses suffered by a business under defined circumstances. 

Today most businesses carry either a standalone property insurance policy, (providing coverage to the property owner for buildings and contents and, in many instances, loss of business income) or a commercial package policy (which includes those coverages and third party liability coverage). The limits of each coverage, including for principal loss of business income coverages, will usually be listed at the front of the policy (the Declarations pages), although a number of additional or supplemental loss of income coverages and their applicable limits may be included in the body of the policy. Each such coverage should be considered separately against your current circumstances to determine the existence and extent of any coverage.
Most principal business income coverages are limited to income losses that result from a fire or other covered physical loss to the insured building or contents.  Typical language imposing such a physical loss requirement for business interruption looks like this:

We will pay for the loss of Business Income you sustain due to the suspension of your operations during the period of restoration. The suspension must be caused by direct physical loss of or damage to property at the described premises. The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a covered cause of loss.

These two requirements (caused by direct physical loss to covered property and caused by a covered cause of loss) make it unlikely that many business income losses resulting from coronavirus impacts will be covered, because such impacts — closures due to government orders and/or for business reasons — do not ordinarily involve a physical loss or damage to the insured’s property.  Even if these requirements are met, many (but not all) business interruption coverages in property policies have applicable explicit exclusions for losses caused by viruses, and/or closures ordered by the governments. 

These limitations will preclude coverage of business income for many, if not most, insureds. However, it is critical to carefully examine the applicable provisions of your policy to confirm that the limitations exist and are applicable to your specific circumstances. Other more general exclusions, such as for losses resulting from pollution, may also be asserted by insurers. Moreover, while virtually every business is already impacted by coronavirus, the nature and precise causes of business income losses are evolving and such causes must be carefully considered before ruling out a viable business interruption claim. 

A final word about principal business interruption coverages:  In the past few decades, with the rise in globalization, the length of supply chains has expanded, and the impacts of a disruption to one business on other businesses have become important and insurable.  Such coverages are sometimes known as contingent business interruption, and in the recent years of “soft” markets for insurers, many competed by expanding coverage, and narrowing or eliminating exclusions. This heightens the need for a careful review of your policy and your circumstances.  

This same competitive environment has led many insurers to include additional or supplemental coverages for specific circumstances.  Such coverages are often subject to a sub limit well below the principal business income coverage. They may not require physical injury to covered property or be subject to exclusions applicable to the principal business income coverage.  These specialty coverages include event cancellations insurance, coverage for income losses you suffer because of your business depends on another business, and coverages for government-ordered closures in limited circumstances.  While the limits of such specialty coverages may be a fraction of the principal business income limits, (e.g. in the tens of thousands vs. hundreds of thousands or millions), they may provide a valuable source of income to buffer some of the impacts of the coronavirus on your business.

Please contact Joseph Sano in our insurance and reinsurance practice group at jsano@princelobel.com if you have any questions.  

March 19th, 2020
City of Cambridge COVID-19 Daily E-Newsletter and Key Resources

As has always been the case, Citizen Observer/Tip411 will be used to update you on crime and other public safety issues. However, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, we are contacting you to make you aware of the ability to sign up for Cambridge-specific COVID-19 email updates, which will be sent nearly each evening, with the latest news and resources. If you are interested, please subscribe at http://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19emails

If you are proactively seeking updated information throughout the day, the best source is the dedicated Cambridge COVID-19 website: https://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19.

Contact: pio@cambridgepolice.org

Submit an Anonymous Tip

To submit a tip via text message text TIP650 and your tip to 847411

Alert delivered to the following groups: Cambridge PD Citywide, Business Alerts, Press Releases, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 1 – East Cambridge, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 3 – Inman/Harrington, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 4 – The Port, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 5 – Cambridgeport, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 6 – Mid-Cambridge, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 7 – Riverside, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 8 – Agassiz, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 9 – Peabody, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 10 – West Cambridge, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 11 – North Cambridge, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 12 – Cambridge Highlands, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 13 – Strawberry Hill, Cambridge PD: Neighborhood 2 – M.I.T., Private – Harvard Square Business Association, Private – Central Square Business Association, Private – Inman Square Business Association, Private – East Cambridge Business Association, Private – Kendall Square Business Association, Kendall Square Security Network Association , Private – Cambridge Public Safety Association, Private – Cambridge Hotels, Private – Cambridge Banks, Private – Cambridge Biotechs, Private – Porter Square Business Association, Private – Cambridge Higher Ed, Private – Cambridge Gov’t, Private – Cambridge Security, Private – Cambridge Real Estate, Private – Cambridge Retail, Private – CPSA Master, and Private – Cambridge Charter and Private Schools


City of Cambridge Announces Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund

Dear All:

We hope you and yours continue to be well, healthy and safe.

We just received the attached from the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (“ABCC”) regarding an automatic extension of the delinquency reporting period for those who qualify (see attached).  The ABCC has also informed us that as it continues to publish documents related to the COVID-19 emergency, they will be published at: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/covid-19-abcc-advisory-information.  Any questions relating to this ABCC Advisory should be directed to them via email to: rsacramone@tre.state.ma.us or rmelville@tre.state.ma.us

Thank you, be well.
Nicole Murati Ferrer, Esq., Chair
Cambridge License Commission
Pole and Conduit Commission
831 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 349-6140
www.cambridgema.gov/license


March 18th, 2020
Cambridge public health department to implement take out and food market guidance. A MIT biomedical research scientist (Cambridge resident Jill Crittenden) who has expertise is in the spread of virus via food handling led the initiative with Sam Lipson.

March 17th, 2020
A loan fund of $10 million has been created to provide financial relief to Massachusetts businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) will receive and process all applications for this fund. Applications can be found on our website at empoweringsmallbusiness.org

General Terms and Conditions

Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by the COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits
Negative impact must be verifiable
Loan amounts up to $75,000
Loan amount not to exceed 3 months of demonstrated cash operating expenses for the 1st quarter of 2020
No payments due for first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments (direct debited)
Annual interest rate 3%
Personal guarantee required of all owners with 20% or more interest in the company
Personal credit score under 575 will require an exception
All asset lien on business
No prepayment penalty
Ineligible businesses include companies involved in real estate investment, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, cannabis or firearms. Companies with past due tax liabilities or tax liens or currently in bankruptcy (Corporate or Personal) are not eligible.
Approval contingent on business being profitable prior to 3/10/20 and no adverse personal credit reports 60 days past due for the last six months.

How to Apply

Please complete the 2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund application found at empoweringsmallbusiness.org
Attach the following required information
· 2018 business and personal tax return

· Internally prepared 12/31/19 financial statements

· YTD 2020 internally prepared financials

Completed application and attachments can be sent to MGCC at mgcc@massgcc.com with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund”

2020 SMALL BUSINESS RECOVERY LOAN FUND APPLICATION


  • Information on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts loan recovery program
  • Upcoming SBA webinars

Massachusetts Small Business Recovery Loan Program

How to Apply:

Please complete the application found on MGCC’s website, EmpoweringSmallBusiness.org

Completed applications can be sent via email to mgcc@massgcc.com with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund”.

MGCC can be reached by email: mgcc@massgcc.com

Loan Fund Details:

  • Who Qualifies: Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits (negative impact must be verifiable).
  • Terms and Conditions: This fund is being offered with no payments due for the first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments and no prepayment penalties.
  • Businesses can apply for loans up to $75,000.

#2 – Update from the SBA – SBA Coronavirus Special Topic Conference Call Series in collaboration with U.S. Commercial Service

There is a whole series of conference calls that the SBA is hosting in collaboration with the U.S. Commercial Service, one of which is next Tuesday about the SBA Disaster Loan Program.

For series and to register: http://www.ctexporters.com/special-topics-conference-calls/ 

March 16th, 2020
As a follow-up to this evolving national emergency, we will continue to be here as a resource for our members and the greater Harvard Square community.

I am sure you have been inundated with information, but just in case, here are important links to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and city of Cambridge websites with the latest updates:

https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

https://www.cambridgema.gov/COVID19

Last year we recommended that you all sign up for the City of Cambridge Code Red Alerts. If you have not done so, we encourage you to do so; here is a direct link: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/F8C030CDD4FF

HSBA member Tom Crowley has shared the following guidance for businesses in efforts to help alleviate financial burdens that many businesses will face in the coming days and weeks ahead. “At the moment, there is a potential for programs to be created by the government to offer short term loans to hopefully offset the reduction of business you all may face. I recommend immediately calling your bank and beginning the conversation to see what your options are. This early contact may allow you to react quicker when and if these programs are made available.” Please call Tom with any questions you may have. Tom Crowley, CFP® Financial Advisor, 1692 Mass. Ave, Office. 617-491-1190 www.edwardjones.com/tom-crowley

Below please view this Human Resources Update information assembled by HSBA member, Comprehensive Insurance Providers. We hope you find it useful to you and your employees.

Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” (H.R. 6201) with implications to employers of fewer than 500 employees. The Senate is likely to pass the bill in the next week.

Paid Family Medical Leave

The bill provides 12 weeks of job-protected paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leaveof which the first 14 days may be unpaid—for employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Employees may use accrued personal or sick leave during the first 14 days, but employers may not require employees to do so.

This leave benefit covers employees who have been working for at least 30 calendar days.

Among other uses, employees may use the leave to respond to quarantine requirements or recommendations, to care for family members who are responding to quarantine requirements or recommendations, and to care for a child whose school has been closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the first 14 days, employers must compensate employees in an amount that is not less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay. These pay requirements apply to only the COVID-19-related leave reasons listed above.

The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and expire on December 31, 2020. The bill would provide those who qualify with two-thirds of their average monthly earnings, with a cap of $4,000, for up to 12 weeks. The benefits could be paid retroactively and would be available for those who had to leave work starting Jan. 19.

Paid Sick Leave

Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide full-time employees 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave for specific circumstances related to COVID-19 (e.g., self-isolating, doctors’ visits, etc.).

Part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours of paid sick time equal to the number of hours they work, on average, over a 2-week period.

Employers must compensate employees for any paid sick time they take at their regular rates of pay.

Employers will be required to post a notice informing employees of their rights to leave.

As currently drafted, the bill expressly provides that it does not preempt existing state or local paid sick leave entitlements.

Small businesses (defined as having 50 employees or less) would be reimbursed for providing the 14 days of additional paid sick leave.

For employers who already provide paid sick leave, the additional leave made available under the House bill should still be provided, and employers would not be allowed to make changes to their existing policies to avoid offering additional paid leave.

The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and expire on December 31, 2020.

Unemployment Insurance

The bill provides $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance (UI) relief to the states: $500 million for costs associated with increased administration of each state’s UI program and $500 million held in reserve to assist states with a 10 percent increase in unemployment. Besides the necessary increase in unemployment, in order to receive a portion of this grant money, states must temporarily relax certain UI eligibility requirements, such as waiting periods and work search requirements.

To this point in time, the following has taken place to respond to the crisis:

According to guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on March 12, 2020, states can pay benefits when:

An employer temporarily closes due to COVID-19 and employees can’t work.
An employee is quarantined but expects to work when the quarantine is over.
An employee leaves his or her job due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.

Federal law doesn’t require employees to quit their jobs in order to receive unemployment insurance benefits related to COVID-19. Though, the department noted, employees who are receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave are generally not considered unemployed because they are still receiving pay. So they would likely be ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits while receiving such pay.

Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA), in coordination with the US Department of Labor (USDOL) is taking a series of actions to assist workers and employers. These actions were begun in advance of the House passage of the Coronavirus Response Bill.

For current unemployment claims:

All requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended.
Missing deadlines due to effects of COVID-19 will be considered good cause, and lateness will be excused.
All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.

The Department of Labor issued guidance to the states instructing state agencies to apply existing law flexibly. Under the DOL guidance, DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.

To assist individuals who cannot work due to the impact of COVID-19, the Administration is filing emergency legislation that will allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

The state is filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment in the following circumstances:

The workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. Workers must remain in contact with their employer and be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do, but do not otherwise need to be looking for work.
An employer may extend the period of the shut-down to eight weeks, and the employees will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods.

Employers who are impacted by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and pay contributions.

The pending federal legislation note above proposes further relief including additional money for unemployment benefits and relief to employers for charges related to unemployment benefits paid due to COVID-19.

We are pleased to report that MEMA has collected enough small business loss data to prepare a request for EIDL to be submitted by Governor Baker to the SBA. The City of Cambridge is in the process of assisting Governor Baker with requesting the SBA EIDL program. More info: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/small-business-assistance-for-covid-19

March 12th, 2020
An Important Message From Harvard Square.