BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced its plan for a second round of $500 payments to low-income workers under the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program, which was passed by the Massachusetts Legislature and signed by Governor Baker in December 2021 as part of a $4 billion spending plan for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These payments will deliver approximately $165 million to an estimated 330,000 eligible individuals in June.
The first round of payments, distributed in March 2022, provided $500 checks to approximately 480,000 people. Individuals in the second round of payments did not receive payments in the first round. With this second round of payments, over $400 million of the $460 million program will have been distributed to eligible individuals.
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. Eligibility will be based on filed 2021 Massachusetts tax returns. 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.
The lower bound of this range 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
Individuals who received a Round 1 payment through this program or received unemployment compensation in 2021 will not be eligible for the second round of payments, nor will Commonwealth executive branch employees who received or will receive a one-time COVID-related payment from the state as their employer.
For questions about eligibility, a dedicated call center is available at (866) 750-9803 and is open Monday through Friday, 9am – 4pm.
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. Additional information on plans to disburse funds remaining after June will be released in the future.