Massachusetts Legislation, Regulations, and Programs Regarding COVID-19 Emergency
On March 24th, the Governor filed legislation to make temporary changes to Massachusetts’ laws and regulations covering a wide range of public and private enterprises to remain in effect during the Covid-19 emergency including the following:
1. Pending Legislation
Restaurants can sell beer and wine for pick up or delivery
Any establishment already licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption may sell beer and wine, as long as it remains in its sealed container, for pick up or delivery, if it is sold as part of a food order.
Time Limits for all Permits and Related Hearings Suspended
Pending permits will not be granted or rejected due to any time limits associated with the approval of the permit.
Permits due to expire during the emergency will not lapse or expire.
New permit applications may be filed electronically.
The time by which hearings must be conducted is suspended until 45 days after the end of the emergency.
Food Service and Hospitality Relief Fund
2019 H.D. 4975 – Filed on March 24, 2020 - proposes a food service and hospitality relief fund administered by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. It would provide grants to individuals employed in the food service and hospitality industry laid off or are otherwise experiencing financial distress as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19 or any executive order. It proposes the use of $75,000,000 from Commonwealth Stabilization Fund.
Real Estate and other transactions requiring a notary can be accomplished remotely
2019 MA S.D. 2882 – Filed on March 24, 2020 - proposes temporarily suspending in-person witnessing of signatures to be notarized as long as it is conducted during a real-time video conference, and both parties are located in Massachusetts. So long as certain other protocols are maintained, the notarized documents shall be accepted as properly executed for all legal purposes for any document to be filed in the Registry of Deeds.
Business interruption insurance expanded to include interruption due to Covid-19
2019 MA SD 2888 - filed in the senate on March 24, 2020 - proposes to amend or interpret every insurance policy insuring against loss or damage to property, which includes the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption in force to be construed to include business interruption directly or indirectly resulting from COVID-19. It also bars any insurer in the Commonwealth from denying a claim for loss or use and occupancy and business interruption on account of: (1) COVID-19 being a virus, or (2) there being no physical damage.
Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures
2019 MA HD 4935–filed on March 13, 2020 - proposes that during the COVID-19 emergency(1)no court enter a judgment on an eviction or deny a stay of execution from the date of the Emergency Order (March 10) until the time that the emergency declaration is rescinded; (2) that all deadlines be tolled until emergency is over; and (3) that no foreclosures shall completed.
Freeze on Rent Increase
2019 MA HD 4965 proposes that theDepartment of Housing and Community Development, or any city or town be authorized to enact, maintain and enforce rent freezes and/or rent control for the duration of the state of emergency and 30 days after.
2. Enacted legislation/administrative actions/Massachusetts Programs
No wait for Unemployment Benefits
Massachusetts enacted a law to waive the one week waiting period to file for unemployment benefits. By administrative action, MassHire Center seminars have been suspended, missing deadlines due to Covid-19 will be excused, and appeal hearings will be conducted by telephone.
Employers who missdeadlines due to effects of COVID-19 can be excused under the good cause provision and Appeal hearings are held telephonically only
Administrative Tax Relief
Employers impacted by Covid-19 may request a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and make unemployment tax contributions.
Certain eligible small businesses (less than $150,000 in tax paid in last 12 months) may delay payment of sales, meals, and room occupancy taxes to the Department of Revenue due in March, April and May until June 20th.
Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Resources’ Rapid Response Program offers help to minimize layoffs and, through its WorkShare Program, helps implement a plan to pair employees with reduced hours with unemployment insurance to help employers maintain skilled employees during temporary business downturn.
Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development offers US Small Business Administration low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to MA small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as result of COVID-19. In addition, Small businesses, private non-profit organizations, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises can qualify for an Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met if the disaster did not occur: interest rate is 3.75 for small businesses; 2.75% for non-profits; up to maximum of 30 years.