This is a difficult time for all of us, and with so much information circulating, it is important to get your information from official sources written by experts.
Visit www.mass.gov/covid19 for guidance and daily updates, call the Massachusetts COVID-19 information line at 2-1-1, or sign up for text alerts by texting COVIDMA to 888-777.
While the State continues its critical efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and expand our health care capacity, the following resources are in place to help those in need of financial support:
• EXPANDED BENEFITS: The federal CARES Act expands who is eligible for unemployment benefits and increases the amount and duration of those benefits. If you are out of work, you may now qualify for benefits even if you were not previously eligible, including those who are self-employed. You may also be eligible for federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance since the President has issued a disaster declaration for Massachusetts.
• TO APPLY: You must apply through the State for all unemployment benefits. We are awaiting guidance from the federal government on how to implement the new benefits – updates and instructions will be posted here: www.mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19
SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF
• LOANS: the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans (up to $2 million with the possibility of a $10,000 advance); Paycheck Protection Program loans (up to $10 million with the possibility for some loan forgiveness); and debt relief for 6 months for certain new and existing SBA loans. For more information, visit the SBA’s COVID-19 resource guide: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
• TAX RELIEF: For small businesses that paid less than $150,000 last year in sales plus meals taxes, or in room occupancy taxes, those taxes due in March, April, and May will instead be due on June 20. The deadline for filing state and federal income taxes has been pushed back to July 15. Further, certain employers may defer paying the employer portions of federal payroll taxes for 2020, and certain employers may receive a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of each eligible employee’s first $10,000 in wages and compensation.
• MORE INFO: Visit https://www.uschamber.com/co/small-business-coronavirus or https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-resources-and-guidance-for-businesses
MORTGAGES & RENT
• HOMEOWNER SUPPORT: The State has urged Massachusetts financial institutions to forbear mortgage payments, waive late fees, not report late payments to credit rating agencies, and postpone foreclosures, all for 60 days. Additionally, homeowners with a federally-backed mortgage cannot be foreclosed upon for 60 days and can request mortgage forbearance for up to 6 months, with a possible extension of 6 additional months without penalties or interest.
• RENTAL SUPPORT: The State will dedicate $5 million for rental assistance (RAFT) to families facing rent insecurity, with additional funding for Section 8 rental vouchers from the federal government. Affordable housing operators have been urged to suspend all non-essential evictions, and any federally-backed property owners cannot file new eviction cases for 120 days. The Housing Court has postponed most eviction hearings until after April 21. For rental assistance, please contact Community Teamwork: https://www.commteam.org/
The State is continuing to take aggressive action to secure personal protective equipment for our health care workers, conduct rigorous COVID-19 testing, quickly grow our health care workforce, and expand the number of hospital beds and ventilators available. Continue to practice social distancing, as the Governor has extended the stay-at-home order and closure of non-essential businesses through May 4. If you begin to experience symptoms of COVID-19 (including fever, cough, or shortness of breath), call your doctor for instruction.
This is a rapidly changing situation, with new actions taken every day. For the most up-to-date information, visit www.mass.gov/covid19.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature and serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380. ◊