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Top House, Senate Democrats Agree On COVID-19 Relief To Mass. Workers, Employers

Top Massachusetts legislative Democrats announced Monday they'd reached a deal on a COVID-19 recovery bill that aims to help workers and employers.

According to an outline of the deal, it includes measures around tax relief for certain unemployed workers, paid leave related to COVID-19 and vaccinations, relief from planned hikes in unemployment insurance rates, and waiving state taxes on Paycheck Protection Program grants.

Senate President Karen Spilka, House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Ways and Means Committee Chairs Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues announced the bill in a joint statement, in which they said they'd seek to pass legislation quickly but did not lay out a timeline for action.

The four Democrats said they'd agreed on "targeted tax relief to unemployed workers whose income falls below 200% of the poverty line," a waiver of penalties for missed tax payments on unemployment insurance benefits received in 2020, and access to paid leave for workers who need time off because they contract COVID-19, are ordered to quarantine or need time off to get vaccinated.

"Finally, the bill will prevent increases in the UI rate schedule for 2021 and 2022, providing employers with needed stability and relief as the Commonwealth continues to recover," the statement said. "The agreement also allows for state borrowing, secured by a temporary employer assessment, to ensure the solvency of the UI trust fund. In addition to UI relief, to help many small businesses and employers who received PPP loans to stay afloat and save jobs, we have agreed to conform to the current federal tax code to exclude forgiven PPP loans from gross income for small businesses organized as pass-through entities."

Earlier in the day, a group of mostly Republican lawmakers joined the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance for a press conference calling for quick action to waive state PPP taxes.

The House is scheduled to meet next in an informal session on Wednesday: the Senate next meets in an informal on Thursday.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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