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BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced the start of distribution of the first round of $500 payments for low-income workers under the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay Program. The payments will be mailed to approximately 500,000 people over the next week.
These payments were previously announced last month and represent the first round of a $460 million program passed by the Massachusetts Legislature and signed by Governor Baker as part of a $4 billion spending plan for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Under this program created by the Legislature, the Administration was provided flexibility to design the program and develop eligibility parameters to ensure this critical support is provided quickly to workers across the Commonwealth.
Massachusetts residents will be eligible for first round payments if, based on filed 2020 Massachusetts tax returns, their income from employment was at least $12,750 – the equivalent to working 20 hours/week for 50 weeks at minimum wage as of 2020 – and their total income put them below 300% of the federal poverty level.
Individuals who received unemployment compensation in 2020 will not be eligible for the first round of payments, nor will Commonwealth executive branch employees who received or will receive a one-time payment from the state as their employer. Eligible individuals will receive the payment in the form of a check mailed to them. Checks will be mailed in batches in the coming days.
For questions about eligibility, a dedicated call center is available at (866) 750-9803 and is open Monday through Friday, 9am – 4pm.
The legislation creating the Premium Pay program included $500 million in total for low-income essential workers; this $460 million program comprises the majority of those funds, and $40 million was allocated to fund previous agreements with state employee unions. This first round of payments, worth $250 million, will be made based on 2020 returns. Following the 2021 tax filing season, the next round of payments will be made using information from 2021 returns.
Information on plans to disburse subsequent rounds of funds will be released in the future.