Families First Coronavirus Response Legislation. Over night, the House of Representatives made “technical fixes” to the Coronavirus response bill originally passed over this past weekend. The Senate could pick up consideration of the Bill as early as today.

These changes include:

  • Tax credits intended to defray the costs of the new paid leave requirements would be expanded and apply to health insurance contributions to workers taking time off for illness or to care for children home from school. In addition, the tax credits would offset not just the 6.2 percent Social Security portion of payroll taxes on affected wages, but also the separate 1.45 percent Medicare tax.

  • Some of the qualifying circumstances are tightened as well, such as limiting guaranteed pay for up to 12 weeks of family leave to those caring for small children.

  • Tax credits intended to defray the costs of the new paid leave requirements would be expanded and apply to health insurance contributions to workers taking time off for illness or to care for children home from school. In addition, the tax credits would offset not just the 6.2 percent Social Security portion of payroll taxes on affected wages, but also the separate 1.45 percent Medicare tax.

  • Some of the qualifying circumstances are tightened as well, such as limiting guaranteed pay for up to 12 weeks of family leave to those caring for small children.

We will be paying attention to the progress of this legislation as it continues to develop.


President Trump held a press conference on March 16 to issue new guidelines for slowing the spread of the Coronavirus. The White House has made a poster available here .

The message is that e ven if you are young and otherwise healthy, you are at risk—and your activities can increase the risk of contracting the Coronavirus for others. Everyone can do their part. The new recommendations are simple to follow but will have a resounding impact on public health.

The first steps look very familiar:

  • Stay home if you feel sick - do not go to work.
  • If children in your home are sick - do not send them to school but do contact their healthcare provider.
  • If someone in your home has tested positive for coronavirus, keep the entire household home, do not go to work, do not go to school.
  • If you are older, stay at home away from others.
  • If you have an underlying health condition (heart condition, respiratory condition, or compromised immune system), stay at home away from others.


The additional guidance makes clear several points:

  • Work from home, engage distance learning where possible.
  • If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, there is a special responsibility to maintain your regular work schedule. Follow CDC guidelines thoroughly
  • Avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people
  • Avoid eating or drinking in restaurants or bars, use delivery, drive through or take-out options
  • Avoid discretionary travel, which includes shopping trips
  • Do not visit nursing homes, retirement homes, or long term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
  • Practice good hygiene: sneezing into a handkerchief or tissue or the inside of your elbow; avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently.

Massachusetts Governor Baker issued several emergency orders on Sunday March 15 very similar in nature to those in the President's Guidance that affect Massachusetts employers:

  • A suspension of educational operations at all public and private elementary and secondary schools in Massachusetts
  • A prohibition of gatherings of over 25 people, including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals, and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more persons in a single room or single space. (This prohibition expressly prohibits gatherings of more than 25 people in open work spaces, such as conference rooms.)

The Governor’s emergency orders take effect on today, March 17, 2020, and are scheduled to remain in place through April 5, 2020, unless otherwise ordered.

The Governor has not ordered the general closure of private-sector employers in Massachusetts. However, taken together, the effect of the emergency orders requires most private-sector employers to significantly modify their business operations.  

Specifically, the orders require most employers to:
  • limit access to co-working spaces;
  • transition employees to teleworking environments to accommodate childcare responsibilities.

In anticipation of employment disruptions that will result from the emergency orders, the Governor also announced expanded unemployment insurance protections for Massachusetts workers impacted by Coronavirus-related work stoppages. Yesterday , he filed a bill that would waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits to be paid to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Additional responses from the Department of Unemployment Administration (DUA) include:

  • Under the DOL guidance, DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.

The DUA is also filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment in the following circumstances:

  • The workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. Workers must remain in contact with their employer and be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do, but do not otherwise need to be looking for work.
  • An employer may extend the period of the shut-down to eight weeks, and the employees will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
  • If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods.

Employers who are impacted by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and pay contributions.

MASSACHUSETTS: Baker-Polito Administration Small Business Recovery Loan Fund
 
The $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund will provide emergency capital up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits. Loans are immediately available to eligible businesses with no payments due for the first 6 months. Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) has capitalized the fund and will administer it.
 
 
How to Apply: Please complete the application found on MGCC’s website, EmpoweringSmallBusiness.org
 
Completed applications can be sent via email to  mgcc@massgcc.com with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund”.
 
MGCC can be reached by email:  mgcc@massgcc.com
 
Loan Fund Details:
 
Who Qualifies:

  • Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits (negative impact must be verifiable).

Terms and Conditions:

  • This fund is being offered with no payments due for the first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments and no prepayment penalties.
  • Businesses can apply for loans up to $75,000.

FEDERAL: T he U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.

  • Any such Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance declaration issued by the SBA makes loans available to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations in designated areas of a state or territory to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
 
  • SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will coordinate with the state’s or territory’s Governor to submit the request for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance.
 
  • Once a declaration is made for designated areas within a state, the information on the application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance will be made available to all affected communities as well as updated on our website: SBA.gov/disaster. Currently, these Massachusetts counties are eligible by virtue of their proximity to primary affected counties in Connecticut: Berkshire, Hampden, Worcester.
 
  • SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.

  • These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.

  • SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.
 
  • SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are just one piece of the expanded focus of the federal government’s coordinated response, and the SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible.

For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail  disastercustomerservice@sba.gov .