Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I write to you today with an important update on the House of Representatives’ commitment to Massachusetts workers and businesses. Today, in a formal session, I voted in the affirmative on legislation that provides COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to eligible workers and makes corrections to unemployment insurance rates that have increased amid the pandemic.
As you may recall, in March the Legislature enacted An Act financing a program for improvements to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and providing relief to employers and workers in the Commonwealth. This legislation provided valuable tools to both workers and businesses as the Commonwealth continues to navigate the impacts of COVID-19.
- Created an unemployment insurance tax credit for residents who received unemployment in fiscal years `20 and `21;
- Placed a freeze the employer experience rating at rate schedule “E” for 2021 and 2022;
- Authorized the Commonwealth to issue special obligation bonds to repay the federal loans; and
- Created a COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to provide necessary leave for employees through September 2021.
Following the enactment by both chambers, Governor Baker signed the bill into law with the exception of the sections related to the COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave and instead delayed much needed relief by offering amendments to the program.
The Governor’s amendment recommended excluding municipal employees from the COVID-19 Massachusetts emergency paid sick leave program and providing reimbursement to participating employers through an employee tax credit. This afternoon, after rejecting Governor Baker’s amendments, the House of Representatives once again voted in favor of the provisions that were debated and enacted by both chambers. This legislation shifts the burden of pandemic-related unemployment claims from a solvency account to a new COVID-19 Employer Relief Account and delays first quarter unemployment insurance payments for businesses. Businesses will resume practices for unemployment insurance on August 1, 2021.
Additionally, the legislation contains the following provisions related to emergency paid sick leave:
- Establishes a COVID-19 Massachusetts Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund to reimburse eligible employers for the cost of providing employees with COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave.
- Requires employers to provide COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to employees absent from work if:
- the employee:
- needs to self-isolate, seek a medical diagnosis, obtain and immunization;
- must comply with a quarantine order or determination by a local, state or federal public official;
- is unable to telework because of a COVID-19 diagnosis; or
- the employee needs to care for a family member:
- who needs to self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, needs medical diagnosis;
- due to a quarantine order.
- the employee:
- Requires employers must provide COVID-19 Massachusetts emergency paid sick leave based on the number of hours an employee works but must not be greater than $850 per week.
- Allows employers to be reimbursed from the COVID-19 Massachusetts Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund by submitting certain information as determined by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance or other agency or department for reimbursement directly to eligible employers.
- Requires COVID-19 Massachusetts emergency paid sick leave to be available to employees until, whichever occurs first:
- 15 days after notification from ANF to employers that applications totaling $60M have been submitted, or
- September 30, 2021.
It is my hope that the Senate will take swift action and join the House of Representatives in once again engrossing the provisions related to COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave. While the Commonwealth continues to demonstrate its resilience and emerge from the public health pandemic, we must provide our workers and businesses with the tools to stay healthy and remain open.
Yours in service,