State: $500 checks being sent to 500,000 people in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Hundreds of thousands of low-income workers in Massachusetts will soon be receiving $500 checks from the state of Massachusetts.

The Baker administration on Tuesday unveiled plans for distribution of the cash payments as part of the “COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program.”

The payments, worth $250 million, will be mailed to 500,000 people by the end of March, according to the state.

This is the first round of funds being distributed as part of the $460 million program enacted last December when Governor Charlie Baker signed a $4 billion spending plan for American Rescue Plan Act funds.

What to expect and who is eligible for payment:

The state is basing payment on filed 2020 Massachusetts tax returns.

People will be eligible for payments if their income from employment was at least $12,750 and their total income puts them below 300% of the federal poverty level.

The federal poverty level is set by the federal government and increases with household or family size, according to the state.

-The maximum total income for a single filer with no dependents will be $38,280

-A resident who files with a spouse and two dependents, or with no spouse and three dependents, could be eligible for a payment with a household income up to $78,600.

-Married filers can each be eligible, provided each independently qualifies, according to the state.

Based on these parameters, the chart below indicates eligibility for these payments by household size, according to the state.

An important note: the state says people who received unemployment compensation in 2020 will not be eligible for the first round of payments.

Also, Commonwealth executive branch employees who received or will receive a one-time payment from the state as their employer are also not eligible.

Frequently asked questions here:

The state says information on plans to distribute subsequent rounds of funds, after March, will be released in the future.

The legislation creating the Premium Pay program included $500 million for low-income essential workers.

This $460 million program comprises the majority of those funds, and $40 million was allocated to fund previous agreements with state employee unions.

“I was pleased to sign the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program into law in December, and our Administration has worked quickly to design the parameters for the program with plans to efficiently begin distribution of these payments by the end of March,” said Governor Baker. “This program will support those workers who served our communities, especially early in the pandemic.”

“This first round of payments to low-income workers will provide meaningful support for individuals who continued to work despite the global pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We are pleased that our Administration has been able to quickly design this program to get funds out the door to those workers who the program is intended to support.”

There will be a call line set up eventually for questions. The state is in the process of setting up the call line.

Click here to learn more about the program.

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