Poles agree on help for workers and employers – Sentinel and Enterprise
BOSTON’s top Legislative Democrats on Monday outlined legislation they said they would pass quickly, perhaps this week, to relieve workers and businesses still facing economic strains from the COVID pandemic. 19.
Senate Speaker Karen Spilka, House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Ways and Means Committee Chairs Aaron Michlewitz and Senator Michael Rodrigues said the bill they agreed to includes measures regarding paid vacation, tax exemption for paycheck protection program loans and unemployment insurance rate relief. .
The measure, details of which were not available on Monday, “strikes a balance to ensure that businesses can keep moving forward while protecting those who work hard to keep the economy going,” they said.
The legislation, the statement said, would ensure that workers can access paid time off – with reimbursement for employers – if they contract COVID-19, are quarantined or need time off to get vaccinated. It would remove penalties for missed tax payments on unemployment insurance benefits received in 2020 and “provide targeted tax relief to unemployed people with incomes below 200% of the poverty line.”
The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, which has advocated for emergency paid time off, plans to review the bill to ensure it provides at least 40 hours of emergency paid sick leave with job protection for all workers in Massachusetts.
“Ensuring that frontline workers can afford to stay home if they are showing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 will be key to preventing further outbreaks and finally ending the pandemic,” said SEIU Local 509 President Peter MacKinnon in a coalition statement.
The bill would freeze the unemployment insurance rate schedule for 2021 and 2022, limiting increases in employer payments, and it would also allow government loans “secured by a temporary employer valuation” to maintain the solvency of the unemployment insurance trust fund. Employers are on track to see their UI rates drop from an average of $ 539 per employee to $ 866 this year without legislation, and maintaining the old schedule would instead boost this year’s contribution. at $ 635 per employee.
For small businesses organized as flow-through entities, the proposal would exclude canceled paycheck protection program loans from gross taxable income. In December, Congress agreed to exempt the canceled loans from federal tax, but without action by lawmakers, a subset of those small business grants that don’t pay corporate tax but pass the income through to owners because the income would still be taxed at the state level.
Earlier Monday, several Republican lawmakers and a Democrat, Dracut Rep Colleen Garry, called on their colleagues to act quickly to exclude canceled PPP loans from state taxes, saying small businesses – including bars and others entities that the state has not allowed to reopen – still face significant economic pressure as they adhere to restrictions linked to the pandemic.
Rep. David DeCoste said bills have been introduced in both branches, by Democrats and Republicans, to provide PPP tax relief for small businesses. He and other speakers at the press call organized by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said it was important to pass such a bill by next Monday, the deadline for filing income tax returns. companies.
“I think we’ve got a good momentum, and we just want to keep that momentum going because otherwise we’re going to once again inflate our small entrepreneurs who have been going through a very difficult time for 13 months now, with one more hurdle to, really, in many cases their survival, ”said DeCoste, a Republican from Norwell.
The Democratic leaders’ statement said lawmakers would “move quickly” to get the bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office and a House official said it was scheduled to review the bill this week. The two branches are expected to meet again this week in informal sessions, the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.
Baker and officials in his administration have expressed interest in at least some of the measures that would be contained in the new bill.
The governor introduced his own bill that would freeze unemployment insurance rates at current levels to limit the increase employers face and allow up to $ 7 billion in borrowing, backed by an assessment of the employer, to replenish the UI trust fund and repay federal loans.
This bill is before the House Ways and Means Committee. So far this session, bills passed by the House and Senate have often been submitted to the Ways and Means Committee without first having been the subject of a public hearing.
Last week, during a hearing on Governor Charlie Baker’s $ 45.6 billion budget plan for next year, Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan said Baker’s office was involved in discussions with state and federal lawmakers on changing laws to remove taxes on all relief issued by state payments and certain federal PPP grants.
Also last week, minority House and Senate leaders, Representative Brad Jones from North Reading and Senator Bruce Tarr from Gloucester, sent letters to Mariano, Spilka, Rodrigues and Michlewitz calling for swift passage of the bill. Baker’s Unemployment Insurance Act and a series of bills that exempt PPP money from state taxes.
Each letter was signed by more than 45 other lawmakers, including members of both parties.
Tarr said on Monday that lawmakers should “spare no effort to move forward and try to help the businesses that we need to be able to continue to survive.”
“We have already seen casualties in the business world due to the pandemic, and we must do everything possible to minimize this and mitigate the damage that would otherwise be caused,” he said at the press conference. .