By Bob Katzen
The Senate 40-0, approved a bill that excludes Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from being taxed by the state in 2020; excludes $10,200 of unemployment compensation received by an individual with a household income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level from gross income for tax purposes; and makes employees eligible for up to five days of paid leave, at their regular rate of pay, capped at $850 per week.
Other provisions waive penalties on unemployment insurance taxes; freeze unemployment insurance rates paid by employers; create a mechanism ensuring all employees will be able to access 40 hours of paid sick time for any COVID-related issues, including testing positive, needing to quarantine or caring for a loved one; and extend the state’s tax filing deadline from April 15, 2021 to May 17, The day after this vote, the Department of Revenue (DOR), citing powers it says it can use when the U.S. president declares a disaster, unilaterally moved the Massachusetts tax filing deadline to conform with the postponed federal deadline of May 17. DOR said Massachusetts individual personal income tax returns and payments for the 2020 tax year that would have been due April 15 are now due May 17 under this automatic extension..
Businesses would also face a new surcharge, in the form of an excise tax on employee wages, through December 2022 to help repay interest due in September on the federal loans.
“In January, I declared that we must act quickly to provide our workers with COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave, and today the Senate has delivered on that promise,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am proud of the collaboration that brought about this agreement, which will provide needed relief for both businesses and workers … As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 emergency, these measures will provide stability to our economy, and keep workers safe.”
“No worker should have to choose between staying home if they risk spreading COVID-19 and earning a paycheck to support their family, but unfortunately this impossible choice faces many workers who do not have adequate job-protected paid sick leave during this pandemic, especially low-income essential workers,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).
“As we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am proud of the collective action taken by the Senate and House to pass this comprehensive bill that strikes a balance to help businesses, workers, and jumpstart an equitable recovery for our commonwealth,” said Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “With more people getting vaccinated by the day, and our economy re-opening, this bill will bring much needed relief to small businesses, keep our essential front-line workers safe, and target tax relief to lift up low-income families who lost jobs during this pandemic.”
The House has approved a different version of the measure and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.