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November 28, 2022

First round of Essential Employee payments to be released

Gov. Charlie Baker said the state of Massachusetts is preparing to administer the first round of payments through the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program.

The governor said the payments will be mailed to 500,000 low-income workers by the end of March, kicking off the $460 million program supported by American Rescue Plan Act funds as part of the state’s spending plan that Baker signed into law in December 2021.

“This program will support those workers who served our communities, especially early in the pandemic,” Baker said in the release.

The Baker administration developed eligibility parameters to ensure the funding is distributed quickly to the state’s workforce. Residents will be eligible for payment if their 2020 income reached $12,750 and the income put them 300% below the federal poverty level, according to the release.

The administration set a formula for the payments that equates to a part-time worker at minimum wage working 20 hours per week for 50 weeks. The federal poverty level increases by family size. A single taxpayer with no dependents making $38,280 would qualify for the payment program. Under the program married taxpayers can be eligible, as long as they independently qualify.

The program comes with exceptions. Taxpayers who received unemployment compensation in 2020 are not eligible to receive the first round of payments and executive branch employees are not eligible as they have, or will, receive a one-time payment from the state.

The Baker administration, according to the release, will release more information on subsequent rounds of payments after March. The program includes $500 million for low-income essential workers, with $460 million comprising the majority of funds. The other $40 million was utilized for previous agreements with state employee unions.

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