Governor Baker signs COVID leave and unemployment system finances bill

Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday signed the bill authorizing $ 7 billion in borrowing to stabilize the unemployment insurance system, establishing a paid sick leave program for COVID-19 emergencies and reducing the amount of increases by premiums that employers face to fund the unemployment insurance system. The governor also dismissed sections of the bill with amendments.

The bill contains language already approved at the federal level to exclude $ 10,200 in unemployment benefits received by some low-income people in 2020 and 2021 from state taxes, a change that the Revenue Department will have to grapple with. for people who have already filed returns for 2020.

The new law also ensures that for tax purposes, paycheck protection program loans and economic disaster loan advances are excluded from gross income, regardless of how businesses are organized. The programs were put in place to help businesses run and retain their employees during the pandemic.

Under the new law, employees are entitled to a maximum of five days of paid vacation under a program which Baker says is similar to a federal COVID paid vacation program and applies to “sick employees. , isolated or quarantined due to COVID, or who are providing vaccination or caring for family members in the same circumstances.

“This will ensure that employees and their families have the necessary protections against the spread of COVID-19 and this is a goal I support,” Baker wrote in a letter to the House and Senate.

In his amendment, Baker called on lawmakers to strike and replace five clauses in the bill dealing with its sick leave provisions, saying his amendments “will simplify implementation for employers and provide greater security for workers. employees “.

In addition to annual premium increases, the bill includes an unemployment insurance surtax that businesses will have to pay to help repay the interest on federal loans that the state needed to maintain the solvency of its business fund. unemployment benefits in the face of an increase in claims last year.

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