BOSTON – $500 checks for about 330,000 Massachusetts workers are going in the mail Monday as part of the second round of the state’s “Essential Employee Premium Pay Program.”
Half a million low-income workers received thein March, based on their 2020 tax returns. For this second round, eligibility criteria are similar but determined by 2021 state tax returns. Those who collected a payment in the first round of the program or anyone who received unemployment compensation in 2021 are not eligible.
Click here for more information about eligibility.
“The eligibility parameters for the second round of payments largely mirror those of the first round, but criteria have been updated for annual changes in minimum wage and federal poverty level calculations,” the administration said in a statement. “Individuals will be eligible for payments if their 2021 income from employment was at least $13,500 and their total income put them at or below 300% of the federal poverty level.”
Single filers with no dependents cannot make over $38,640 in order to get a check. Married filers with two dependents can have a household income of up to $79,500 to be eligible.
Once the second round of payments is complete, the state will have doled out more than $400 million of the $460 million program approved by the Legislature in December and funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
The legislation Baker signed into law called for payments of between $500 and $2,000 for essential employees who worked in-person – not remotely – during the state of emergency that was declared on March 10, 2020 and lasted for more than a year. But Baker’s administration, in an effort to get money out the door as fast as possible, is determining eligibility solely based on tax return information, as there wasn’t a faster way to assess who worked in-person and who didn’t during the state of emergency. And the administration decided to keep the check amount at $500 to get money to more people.
Baker vetoed a section of the bill that would have set up an advisory panel to determine who exactly would be eligible.
Anyone with questions about eligibility can contact a call center at (866) 750-9803 Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.