Reopening Massachusetts:
The New Normal
Reopening Massachusetts Phase III Step 2 is in effect as of March 1, 2021. Each industry is subject to its own guidelines and regulations regarding the reopening stage; however, minimum safety standards remain the same (i.e. social distancing, hygiene protocols, facemasks, etc.). Most notably, progressing into Phase III Step 2 has increased capacity limits. Many industries are permitted to raise capacity limits to 50%, and capacity restrictions do not include employees. Other industries, like restaurants, no longer have capacity limitations, so long as proper social distancing can be maintained.

Make note, Mayor Walsh is reopening Boston at a slower rate than Governor Baker’s standards for the rest of the Commonwealth.

Travel advisories remain in effect. Currently, only Hawaii and Puerto Rico are marked as low-risk.

Reopening Massachusetts Phase IV, Step 1 will be effective March 22, 2021. Governor Baker’s four-phase reopening plan designated this final phase as the “new normal.” Most notably, this phase allows large venues (indoor and outdoor) to begin operating and accepting attendees. Additionally, gathering limits for events will be increased to 100 persons inside and 150 persons outside, and dance floors will be allowed at weddings.
Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Baker signed an executive order giving registered nurses in good standing the authorization to engage in the advanced practice of nursing and prescriptive practices without the oversight of a supervising physician, so long as they have at least two (2) years of supervised practice experience.

On January 1, 2021, this expansion of authority became permanent. In recognizing the need for nurse practitioners as part of the solution for addressing increased healthcare needs, Massachusetts became the 23rd state to allow nurse practitioners to practice independently on January 1, 2021. We represent many nurse practitioners and their practices, and we are happy for them to now be able to operate more independently.  
Changes to Employee Retention Tax Credit in 2021
The Consolidated Appropriations Act (the Act) was enacted by former President Trump on December 27, 2020. This Act made significant changes to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act).
Credit Increase
The credits available have increased from 50% to 70% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages that an employer pays per calendar quarter. This equates to a maximum credit of $7,000 per employee, per quarter.

PPP Loan Recipients
Previously, employers who received a loan under the PPP were ineligible to claim employee retention tax credits for any wages paid to their employees. This Act provides that any employer who received a PPP loan may claim the tax credit, so long as the employer is not claiming the credit for wages paid with the PPP loan if the PPP loan proceeds are forgiven. If the loan proceeds are not forgiven, the employer may claim the tax credit for wages paid to employees with the loan. This may be applied retroactively to March 13, 2020.
Employer Size
The size of the employer determines what constitutes qualified wages, and in turn, whether the employer may claim a credit. Qualified wages for employers who averaged less than 500 employees in 2019 are wages paid to all employees during a period that operations were fully or partially suspended or during the quarter that the employer had a decline in gross receipts regardless of whether the employees provided services.

Decline in Gross Receipts
The decline in gross receipts test for 2021 requires a decline of 20% compared to the same calendar quarter in 2019. This is a significant difference compared to the 50% decline in gross receipts required by the CARES Act for 2020 quarter claims. No changes were made to the alternative qualification. An employer that experienced a partial or total suspension of business operations due to a COVID-19 related governmental order will continue to qualify for the tax credit.
The Employee Retention Tax Credits are now available to businesses that had to close or partially suspend their operations which provides relief to so many of our business clients. We are aware of many businesses that have received significant funds from the Employee Retention Tax Credit. Please feel free to reach out to us or your CPA for more information as to whether or not your business should apply for these tax credits.
Phifer Pinkham, LLC is Growing!
Phifer Pinkham, LLC is pleased to announce that Kayla Perry, Esq. has joined our firm as an associate.

Kayla began her career with Phifer Pinkham, LLC in 2019 as a paralegal while simultaneously earning her Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School in 2020. Kayla practices in the areas of corporate law, employment law, and civil and business litigation. Prior to joining Phifer Pinkham, LLC, Kayla worked as a paralegal in national toxic tort litigation defense in high-stakes, multi-jurisdictional asbestos claims. She received her Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from the University of New Haven in 2013. Kayla resides on the South Shore. She enjoys spending her free time with family and friends.
We Are Here to Help in This Time of Need
Many of our clients have raised questions about remote work arrangements, essential employees reporting to work, layoffs, health insurance continuation, medical inquiries and employee privacy. 

Phifer Pinkham, LLC will remain open, subject to any additional government orders, during normal business hours to assist you with any questions you may have.

We will continue providing updates and guidance as more information becomes available.
Phifer Pinkham, LLC is a full service law firm representing businesses, their owners, and individuals in connection with their legal needs in the areas of business and corporate law, litigation, estate planning and administration, employment law, taxation, intellectual property, real estate, and non profit representation. We provide premium legal services without the Boston premium. Please contact us at (617) 409-7409 to set up an in-person or phone consultation, or please feel free to contact any of our attorneys directly at the email address links provided below.