This article was updated on June 25, 2020.
What is Massachusetts Doing to Help?
Massachusetts has implemented various measures to curtail the economic effects of the coronavirus. Both businesses and individual residents can access the programs aimed at improving economic well-being as the pandemic unfolds.
Assistance for Businesses
The federal government is providing the bulk of economic assistance available to businesses in Massachusetts (see more below). However, there are some additional state sponsored programs currently available:
- The Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development is providing tailored guidance on how to navigate through Small Business Administration assistance programs.
- The state is actively reviewing state business tax obligations, providing case-by-case extensions and relief options (updates are available here).
- The state-funded Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation is offering grants and support to small businesses facing financial hardship due to the pandemic.
- The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has provided a resource page to help businesses avoid layoffs.
Assistance for Individual Residents
Individual residents can also take advantage of several programs implemented by the state of Massachusetts to limit the economic effect the pandemic is having on households.
- The state is expanding unemployment insurance to accommodate the high number of applications from those who have lost their jobs or experienced reduced income.
- Both SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Massachusetts food banks have been mobilized to increase food disbursement to low-income households. More information can be found here.
- Massachusetts is providing PPE to individuals and businesses that cannot access it on the open market. Request assistance here.
- Emergency childcare facilities have been made available to healthcare workers.
- The Department of Housing and Community Development has suspended evictions and is providing an emergency fund for families that cannot pay their rent or mortgage.
Further details on all the programs available within Massachusetts can be found on the state’s coronavirus response website.
What Types of Programs are Being Offered by the Federal Government?
Assistance programs are also being provided by the federal government to combat the economic effect of coronavirus.
The CARES Act outlines several benefits that are currently available to local businesses and individual residents of Massachusetts.
Local Business Federal Assistance
Local businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic have two assistance options they can access through the CARES Act and secondary relief fund.
- Economic Injury disaster loans provide up to $10,000 of funding to small businesses of less than 500 employees. These loans do not have to be paid back.
- The Small Business Paycheck Protection Program offers businesses with less than 500 employees funding for employee salaries, coverage of benefits, rent and utilities bills, and interest free payments for a period of up to 24 weeks. Thanks to new adjustments in the PPP Flexibility Act of 2020, if 60% of these funds are funneled directly to employees, there is no requirement to pay back the assistance package.
Local businesses in Massachusetts can apply for these assistance programs through the Small Business Administration website.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Insurance
Under the CARES Act, unemployment insurance benefits have been expanded to cover business owners, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors—three groups that were previously ineligible for unemployment benefits.
Any local business owners within Massachusetts are eligible for this assistance if they meet the necessary requirements outlined by the federal government. Massachusetts has already started accepting applications for this program.
If you are approved for this coverage, you can expect to receive the following weekly assistance:
- $600 plus state rate (50% of prior weekly income up to $823)
- For a duration of up to 13 weeks retroactive to March 14th
- Extended unemployment benefits are expected to expire at the end of July
The coverage is not limited to small business owners, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors. Any Massachusetts resident that fulfills the federal government criteria can apply.
Individual/Family Stimulus Payments
The CARES Act is also providing stimulus checks to individuals and families across the US to help deal with the economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus.
A maximum of $1,200 (plus an additional $500 for each dependent) is available to anyone making less than $99,000 a year. Couples who file taxes jointly can receive up to $2,400 if their combined income does not exceed $198,000.
See if you are eligible and when you can expect to receive your payment on the IRS website.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has witnessed a major outbreak of COVID-19 cases since it first appeared in the state in early February.
To date, every one of Massachusetts’ 14 counties has experienced cases, with almost half concentrated in the densely populated counties of Middlesex and Suffolk. Updated case numbers can be found on the state government website.
This has impacted economic activity, and as a result, there are presently over half a million Bay State residents receiving unemployment benefits. However, the number of continued unemployment claims has begun to dip as aggressive social distance guidelines have reduced the spread of the virus and enabled the state to begin its four-phase reopening plan.
Coronavirus Testing in Massachusetts
Massachusetts residents who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing across the state.
The government is advising residents to first call their healthcare provider to determine whether a test is necessary. Some healthcare providers are issuing their own tests, so you may be eligible to get tested at your local doctor’s office.
If your provider does not have testing capabilities, there are a few options to get tested:
- Acquire a referral from your doctor and visit a community testing center (appointments are required)
- Visit the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory (you will require a referral and appointment)
Healthcare workers, public safety authorities, and grocery store employees can access testing without a referral. You can make an appointment through the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
The state is also making efforts to test all residents and employees of long-term care and assisted living homes.
Like every other US state, Massachusetts has implemented various measures to decrease transmission and ensure public safety during the outbreak. They’ve implemented:
- Stay-at-home advisory and strict social distancing when accessing essential services outside the home
- Complete ban on gatherings of 10 or more people
- Closure of all schools and daycare centers for the remainder of the academic year
Reopening Businesses in Massachusetts
The state has also begun a four-phase reopening to maintain safety while reopening Massachusetts for business. The phases are as follows:
- Phase One – As of May 25th, construction, manufacturing, and curbside pickup can resume. In addition, some personal service businesses can reopen.
- Phase Two – Retail stores and restaurants can begin to operate at limited capacity. In addition, more personal services business can open.
- Phase Three – Bars, gyms, and other businesses can reopen with capacity limitations.
- Phase Four – Large venues can reopen, along with all other businesses.
On June 8th, Phase Two began, reopening the following businesses:
- Childcare facilities and day camps
- Higher and continuing education facilities
- Restaurants (for takeout and outdoor seating only)
However, Phase Two itself has been divided into two steps, and some businesses like tattoo studios, nail salons, and restaurants with indoor dining are awaiting further news (6/17/2020).
No matter their industry, businesses must take the following steps:
- Create a COVID-19 control plan
- Train employees in all safety protocols
- Require employees to wear mask
- Allow symptomatic employees to remain home and create a plan for their return
- Post signs throughout the business to describe rules for health and safety
- Ensure social distance between all employees and patrons
- Clean and disinfect regularly
Nextdoor: The Neighborhood Hub
You can find all the details on how COVID-19 is affecting your community on Nextdoor, the neighborhood hub. Get pandemic-related information you need to get through this troubling time, including neighborhood recommendations, alerts from public agencies, and local news. Additionally, if you’re still offering your product or services, you can use Nextdoor to reach local customers that live near your business
Support your Massachusetts neighborhood by connecting with your community. With a Nextdoor Business Page, you can promote your business, join the community conversation, and help support other local businesses.
Internal Revenue Service. Economic impact payments: What you need to know. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know
Mass.gov. COVID-19 Testing. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-testing
Mass.gov. Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. https://www.mass.gov/orgs/executive-office-of-public-safety-and-security
Mass.gov. Important COVID-19 Coronavirus Response Update from DOR. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/important-covid-19-coronavirus-response-update-from-dor
Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-pandemic-unemployment-assistance
Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits Guide. https://www.mass.gov/guides/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-benefits-guide#-how-to-apply-
Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The Latest Developments from Housing and Economic Development. https://www.mass.gov/orgs/executive-office-of-housing-and-economic-development
Massachusetts Office of the Governor. Governor Charlie Baker Orders All Non-Essential Businesses To Cease In Person Operation, Directs the Department of Public Health to Issue Stay at Home Advisory For Two Weeks. https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-charlie-baker-orders-all-non-essential-businesses-to-cease-in-person-operation
MGCC. Supporting Small Business Growth & Employment. https://www.empoweringsmallbusiness.org/what-we-offer/small-business-technical-assistance-grant-program
Small Business Administration. Coronavirus Relief Options. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options
Small Business Administration. Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/economic-injury-disaster-loan-emergency-advance
US Department of Labor. Unemployment Insurance Relief During COVID-19 Outbreak. https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus/unemployment-insurance
Mass.gov. Reopening. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-four-phase-approach#overview-
Mass.gov. Reopening. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-four-phase-approach#overview-
This Week in Worcester. Mixed Results in Latest MA Unemployment Report. https://thisweekinworcester.com/mixed-results-ma-unemployment-061220/
USA Today. Extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits runs out next month. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2020/06/17/cares-act-unemployment-what-happens-when-600-weekly-benefits-ends/3194716001/
Investopedia. Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/paycheck-protection-program-flexibility-act-of-2020-an-overview-4846944
If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.