COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay Program

This program will distribute $500 million to lower-wage frontline workers who put themselves at risk with admirable commitment to their communities.

On December 13, 2021 Governor Baker signed into law the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program. The Legislature allocated $460 million for premium payments to Massachusetts workers. 

The law provided for the Administration to design the program and develop eligibility parameters that will ensure this critical support is provided quickly to deserving workers across the Commonwealth. 

$500 payments were delivered to nearly 240,000 people in March in the first round of the programA second round will distribute approximately 300,000 additional checks in June.

Table of Contents

Eligibility Parameters

In order to be eligible to receive a Round 2 Premium Pay check:

You must have:

  • Filed a 2021 tax return;
  • Been a Massachusetts resident on or before June 15, 2021, or a part year resident that lived in Massachusetts between January 1, 2021 and June 15, 2021;
  • Earned income of at least $13,500 in 2021 employment compensation; AND
  • Had a total household income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level in 2021 (see table below).

And you must NOT have:

  • Received a $500 payment in the first round of this program; OR
  • Received any unemployment compensation in 2021; OR
  • If you are an employee of the Commonwealth’s Executive Branch, received a one-time COVID-related payment from the Commonwealth as your employer.

All eligible individuals will automatically receive a check in the mail.  If you do not receive a check, you may be eligible for a future round of premium payments.

Based on filed 2021 Massachusetts tax returns, individuals will be eligible for a $500 payment if their income from employment was at least $13,500 and their total income put them below 300% of the federal poverty level.

Individuals will not be eligible for a second round of payment if they received a payment in the first round of the program, received unemployment compensation in 2021, or received a one-time COVID-related payment from the state as their employer.

$13,500 equates to working 20 hours a week for 50 weeks at minimum wage as of 2021 ($13.50). The federal poverty level is set by the federal government and increases with household or family size. For example, the maximum total income for a single filer with no dependents will be $38,640; a resident who files with a spouse and two dependents, or with no spouse and three dependents, could be eligible with a household income up to $79,500. Married filers can each be eligible, provided each independently qualifies.

Based on these parameters, the below chart indicates eligibility for these payments by household size:

Household/Family Size 2021 Total Income @ 300% of FPL
1 $38,640
2 $52,260
3 $65,880
4 $79,500
5 $93,120
6 $106,740
7 $120,360
8 $133,980


Eligibility for Round 1 Premium Pay checks was based on the below criteria:

You must have:

  • Filed a 2020 tax return;
  • Been a Massachusetts resident in 2020, or a part year resident that lived in Massachusetts between March 10, 2020 and December 31, 2020;
  • Earned income of at least $12,750 in 2020 employment compensation; AND
  • Had a total household income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level in 2020 

And you must NOT have:

  • Received any unemployment compensation in 2020; OR
  • If you are an employee of the Commonwealth’s Executive Branch, received a one-time COVID-related payment from the Commonwealth as your employer.

Frequently Asked Questions


HOW THE PAYMENTS WORK
 

Q. Do I need to take any action to receive this payment?

No. If you are eligible to receive a payment from this program, you will automatically receive the payment in the form of a check that will be mailed to you.

Q. How many rounds of the premium pay program will there be?

The first round of payments was made based on 2020 returns. The second round of payment is based on 2021 returns. Following the second round, the program will be evaluated for any additional rounds. 

Q. Will premium payments be treated as taxable income?

Under current law, premium payments will not be subject to state income tax but may be subject to federal income tax.  Anyone who receives a premium payment will later receive a Form 1099-G from the Department of Revenue. 

ELIGIBILITY
 

Q. Are payments being sent to workers in certain industries?

No, your eligibility is not determined by the industry in which you work. You are eligible for a payment if your income from employment in 2021 was at least $13,500 and your total income puts you below 300% of the federal poverty level, based on filed 2021 Massachusetts tax returns. 

Q. How do I find out what my gross income was in 2021?

Gross income is defined as federal adjusted gross income for tax year 2021.  To find your federal adjusted gross income, look at your 2021 Massachusetts Form 1, or at line 11 of your 2021 U.S. Form 1040.

Q. What is income from employment?

Income from employment means compensation paid in connection with work you did in 2021, as opposed to retirement income, investment income, or other income not associated with a job.  More specifically, income from employment would have been reported on Line 3, Line 6a, Line 6b, or Line 7 (non-passive income only) of your Form 1 for 2021.

Q. I filed for unemployment in 2020 and 2019, am I eligible for a payment?

If you claimed unemployment compensation in 2021, you are not eligible for a check in round 2 of the premium pay program.  However, unemployment compensation in 2019 or 2020 does not affect eligibility for a round 2 check, so long as you are otherwise eligible based on residency and income.

Q. What does three times the federal poverty level mean? 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services creates a table each year as a guideline for gauging the “poverty line”; income below this level implies a household is living in poverty.  The poverty level increases for households with more people living in them.  This table is used by states and the federal government to set eligibility for various programs, including this program, often by using a multiple of the Federal Poverty Level in order to set a uniform cutoff for lower or middle income households. 

Here’s the chart for 300% of, or three times, FPL for 2021:

Persons in family/household 300% of FPL
1 $38,640
2 $52,260
3 $65,880
4 $79,500
5 $93,120
6 $106,740
7 $120,360
8 $133,980

For family size greater than 8, add $13,620 for each additional member to calculate 300% of FPL.

Q. My spouse works part-time, and we file jointly. Are we both eligible to receive a payment?

Each spouse must be independently eligible in order for that spouse to receive a payment.  In other words, each spouse must 1) be a resident on or before June 15, 2021; 2) have 2021 earnings from employment of at least $13,500; and 3) have not received a Round 1 payment, unemployment compensation in 2021, or a one-time COVID-related payment from the state as an Executive Branch employee.  Additionally, you and your spouse’s total income (federal adjusted gross income) cannot be greater than 300% of the federal poverty level ($52,260 for a family of two, or more if you claim other dependents on your taxes). 

Therefore, it is possible that neither spouse, or only one spouse, or both spouses would be eligible for a payment.

Q. What if I received a tax filing deadline extension and have not yet filed my 2021 taxes?

Eligible individuals who will file a 2021 tax return on an extension will receive a Round 2 payment after the extension deadline (October 17, 2022) has passed.

Q. I am disqualified by one parameter but would otherwise be eligible. Will I be eligible in a future round?

Further information on future rounds will be available this fall.  

Q. What should I do if I have questions about my eligibility?

A call center is available to answer questions about eligibility at (866) 750-9803 Monday through Friday, 9am - 4pm.

Additional Information

A premium pay call center is available at (866) 750-9803 to answer questions Monday through Friday, 9am - 4pm.

Additional information on plans to disburse subsequent rounds of funds will be released in the future.  

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