“We need to figure out what we can do to ensure our response is not only efficient but equitable — that kids in Attleboro, Fall River, and Taunton have the same access to testing as kids in Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline.” - Jake Auchincloss, Boston Globe, 12/08/2020
General Bill Overview
On December 27,2020 the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) was signed into law. The legislation included a $900 billion relief bill to aid small businesses, unemployed individuals, schools, and local and state governments. The measure established a second round of PPP loans, extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, authorized a second round of direct stimulus payments, increased SNAP benefits, and enhanced rental assistance among other provisions.
CDC Updates, Case Numbers, Basic Overview
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 throughout Massachusetts, visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website- https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-updates-and-information.
For information regarding COVID-19 restrictions across Massachusetts, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance for individuals to protect themselves, during the COVID-19 pandemic, including resources for how to slow the spread, where to get tested, and how to cope with stress. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/need-to-know.html.
Testing Sites and Vaccine Rollout
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines are being rolled out in three phases across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Vaccines are expected to be available to the general public who do not have priority status beginning in April.
CDC guidelines state individuals should be tested for COVID-19 if they-
- Are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVD-19
- Have taken part in activities that put them at high-risk for contracting COVID-19 or,
- Who have been referred by a healthcare provider
Small Business Resources
Second-Draw Paycheck Protection Program Loans
Congress allocated $284 billion for second-draw Paycheck Protection Program loans. Eligibility has been expanded to include qualifying 501(C)(6) nonprofits. The second-draw loans are limited to qualifying entities with 300 or fewer employees who can demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts in one quarter in 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019. Second-draw Paycheck Protection Program loans are capped at $2 million and can be forgiven if borrowers use the funds accordingly.
Please see the SBA Press Release from January 8, 2021 regarding Second-Draw PPP Loans.
Paycheck Protection Program and Tax Deduction
Businesses are now permitted to deduct expense paid using a Paycheck Protection Program loan, if the loan has been forgiven. This is a change from a previous Treasury Department ruling that expenses paid using PPP funds were not tax deductible.
Grants for Shuttered Venue Operators
Congress provided $15 billion for shuttered entertainment venues who remain especially hard-hit during the pandemic. Eligible venues must have experienced at least a 25% reduction in gross revenue in one quarter of 2020 compared to that same quarter in 2019. Qualifying entertainment venues cannot receive a second-draw Paycheck Protection Program and a grant under this program.
The SBA has not released additional information regarding the grants for Shutter Venue Operators as of January 5, 2021. Visit the Small Business Administration website for additional information and updates.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advances for Business in Low-Income Communities
Congress allocated $20 million for Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advances for qualifying businesses in low-income communities. Eligible businesses must apply for or have previously applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, has suffered an economic loss of greater than 30%, and employs 300 or fewer employees. Eligible entities will receive a cash advance of $10,000 unless they previously received an EIDL advance (If the entity has previously received an EIDL advance, they will receive the difference between $10,000 and the amount the entity received from their first EIDL advance). The EIDL advance is not contingent on the approval of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
The SBA has not released additional information regarding the EIDL cash advance for business in low-income communities as of January 5, 2021. Visit the Small Business Administration website for additional information and updates.
Extended SBA Debt Relief
$3.5 billion has been allocated to continue the Small Business Administration’s Debt Relief Program. Individuals with qualifying 7(a) loans or who apply, are approved, and accept a qualifying 7(a) loan can utilize the Debt Relief Program. The SBA will pay principal, interest, and associated fees of qualifying loans in regular servicing status for a 6-month period. Qualifying 7(a) loans that are in deferment are eligible for 6 months of debt relief following the end of the deferment period. New covered loans accepted after the bill was signed into law are eligible for debt relief for 3 months, with an additional 5-month period for qualifying businesses in specific industries. Debt relief is capped at $9,000 per month.
The SBA has not released additional information regarding the Debt Relief Program as of January 5, 2021. Visit the Small Business Administration website for additional information and updates.
Other National Business Funds
State and Local Resources
- Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation Grants-Applications due January 15, 2021
- Massachusetts Small Business Development Centers
- Center for Women & Enterprise
- SCORE Southeastern Massachusetts
Newton Covid-19 Small Business Recover Grant Program - Applications due February 8, 2021 at 5:00 PM
The Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 extended unemployment provisions under the CARES Act. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will be available through March 13, 2021, with some claimants able to collect through April 10, 2021. Eligible claimants can now collect a maximum of 57 weeks of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The legislation included an additional $300 weekly payment to eligible claimants through March 13, 2021.
Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation will be available for qualifying individuals with at least- $5,000 in self-employment income who do not have that income reflect in their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
Congress passed a second round of direct payments to qualifying individuals. Taxpayers filing single who earn $75,000 or less, taxpayers filing as Head of Household who earn $112,500 or less, and taxpayers filing jointly who earn $150,000 or less qualify for a $600 direct payment. Taxpayers will have their stimulus payment reduced by 5% of their adjust gross income over their respective threshold. Taxpayers are eligible to receive an additional $600 for each qualifying dependent.
The IRS has begun issuing stimulus payments to eligible individuals. Visit the IRS website for additional information.
Rental and Mortgage Assistance
President Biden signed an executive order on January 20, 2021 extending the rental and mortgage assistance program through March 31, 2021 for qualifying tenants who submit this written declaration to their landlord. The executive order also extended moratorium on qualifying single-family foreclosures through March 31, 2021. Qualifying multifamily property owners will not face foreclosure through March 31, 2021.
Congress also authorized $25 billion for emergency rental assistance to protect tenants at risk of being evicted.
*Renters and homeowners struggling to afford their monthly payments should discuss their economic hardship with their landlord or mortgage lender to better understand available resources and requirements*
Rental Assistance Programs
- Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
- Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program
For additional information and assistance regarding tenant rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, please read the Attorney Generals’ press release. "
Mental Health Resources
Increased isolation and added stress during the COVID-19 pandemic have strained individuals mental and physical health. If you or are loved one are struggling with your mental health, please utilize one of the below resources:
- The Massachusetts Network of Care
- Massachusetts 24/7 Emergency and Crisis Support Line- 1 (877) 382-1609
- SAMHSA 24/7 National Helpline- 1 (800) 662-HELP (4357)
The maximum amount an individual will receive in SNAP benefits has increase 15%, to 115% of the June 2020 value of the Thrifty Food Plan. The increased benefit amount will begin January 1, 2021 and conclude on June 30, 2021. Individuals in need of food assistance should visit the Department of Transitional Assistance website.
Visit the Project Bread website for additional information regarding food security programs, including locations of food pantries and free meal sites for children.
Childcare, Schools, and Student Loans
Childcare and Schools
- Congress allocated $10 billion in development block grants to aid childcare providers. Funds may be used to cover increased operating costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation also included $250 million for Head Start providers to continue servicing low-income families.
Visit the Massachusetts Department of Early Childhood Education website for additional information regarding childcare resources in Massachusetts.
- $81.8 billion was appropriated for the Education Stabilization Fund to assist educational institutions in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the coronavirus. Grants will be issued to the Governor of Massachusetts to be distributed accordingly across the Commonwealth.
Visit the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website for additional resources for students and parents.
- The Department of Education extended the student loan moratorium for qualifying loans to January 31, 2022. Monthly payments, interest, and collection activities will be paused through the end of the moratorium.
Visit the Federal Student Aid website for additional information regarding COVID-19 and student loans.
Visit the Department of Education website here for additional resources for schools, students, and families.