Resources for Businesses

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Reopening Massachusetts
On May 18, 2020, the Baker Administration released Reopening Massachusetts, the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, which details a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19. The Administration also released a new “Safer At Home” Advisory, which instructs residents to stay at home unless engaging with newly opened activities, as a way to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19. Starting today, based on current public health data and trends, Massachusetts will begin Phase 1 of a cautious reopening, and workplaces that are permitted to open are required to follow new safety protocols and guidance. Learn more about the reopening process at mass.gov/reopening.

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Essential Services
The decision of businesses being deemed essential and remaining in operation is enforced locally in each municipality. Because the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services (DLS) is responsible for interpreting state laws that affect local governance, DLS is supporting municipalities and local boards of health in ensuring businesses are following all public health protocols at this time. Questions and disputes about businesses remaining in operation because they view themselves as essential should be brought to the local board of health the business operates in.

Businesses not designated as serving an “essential service” under the issued guidance, should consider applying for a designation by completing and submitting the Essential Service Designation Request form

All submissions through the Essential Service Designation Request form are actively reviewed. The state will not be issuing decisions on individual requests from businesses as to whether or not they are essential. They will, however, categorize requests by industry. For example, if the state receives 100 requests from landscaping businesses, they would consider adding landscaping as an essential business. 

All businesses should follow social distancing protocols for workers and customers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health.

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Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) EIDL of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred. Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the COVID-19. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent.

The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information, and download applications at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela

Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call 1-800-877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 18, 2020.

If you applied to Mass Growth Capital Corporation’s (MGCC) Small Business Recovery Loan fund, you are encouraged to apply for additional EIDL support. Due to the availability of EIDL funds, MGCC is no longer accepting applications to the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund as of 12:30PM on March 19th, 2020.

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The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance is a Loan Advance of $10,000 through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that is available to applicants who have been approved for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan; it does not need to be repaid, so you can think of the Advance as a grant for business expenses.

If you have applied or intend to apply to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, you can also apply for a Loan Advance.

Visit SBA’s website to submit an application for the Economic Disaster Injury Loan and Loan Advance 

Please note that you should submit an application at the above link, even if you’ve previously submitted an EIDL application prior to the Loan Advance being available.

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The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

PPP is available starting April 3, 2020 through June 30, 2020.

This program is for any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), private non-profit organization or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by coronavirus/COVID-19.

Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries. Small businesses in the hospitality and food industry with more than one location could also be eligible at the store and location level if the store employs less than 500 workers. This means each store location could be eligible.

You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.

Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

This loan has a maturity of 2 years and an interest rate of .5%.

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The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Small Business Debt Relief
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is also offering Debt Relief to small businesses. Under this relief, the SBA will pay the principal and interest for six months beginning March 27th, 2020 for qualifying new and current holders of 7(a) loans.

Businesses who already have a covered 7(a) SBA loan or receive a 7(a) SBA loan prior to September 27, 2020 can apply.

This relief is applied for covered loans beginning with payments due after March 27, 2020.

Reach out to your SBA lender to discuss how this debt relief applies to your SBA loan.

This debt relief is available only to 7(a) loans and not to loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program, 504 loans, or micro-loans.

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The SBA is a federal program. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Express Bridge Loans
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing and can be a term loans or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan. If a small business has an urgent need for cash while waiting for decision and disbursement on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they may qualify for an SBA Express Disaster Bridge Loan.

Speak to your lender about accessing this option uwhile you await a decision on long-term financing.

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Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act
The federal CARES Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, is designed to encourage Eligible Employers to keep employees on their payroll, despite experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19, with an employee retention tax credit (Employee Retention Credit).

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to pay sick or family leave wages to employees who are unable to work or telework due to certain circumstances related to COVID-19. Employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit for the required leave paid, up to specified limits. The same wages cannot be counted for both credits.

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The Employee Retention Credit is a federal tax credit. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact your federal representative.

Administrative Tax Relief Measures
The Baker-Polito Administration announced administrative tax relief measures for small local businesses which have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

This tax relief includes postponing the collection of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes that would be due in March, April and May so that they will instead be due on June 20. The Department of Revenue announced that it will waive any late-file or late-pay penalties for returns and payment due for meals and room occupancy taxes between March 20 and May 31, 2020.

Businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and business that paid less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes.

Sales and Use Taxes
Due dates for the filing of returns and making payments for sales and use taxes have been changed for some vendors. Review the details of the emergency regulation amendment.

Room Occupancy Excise for Operators
Due dates for the filing of returns, and making payments, for room occupancy excise have been changed for some operators. This does not apply to intermediaries. Review the details of the emergency regulation amendment.

Meals Tax and Room Occupancy Excise
Late File and Late Pay Penalties will be waived for meals vendors, operators, and intermediaries that do not qualify for the relief mentioned above under “Room Occupancy Excise for operators.” See Technical Information Release 20-2 for details.

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WorkShare
WorkShare is a program that offers a smart alternative to layoffs. Employees work reduced hours while collecting unemployment benefits to supplement their lower wages. Because many businesses are reducing hours for employees without laying them off, they can find it useful to use the WorkShare program.

  • Employers must enter agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) about employees that will be covered
  • Eligibility is based upon unemployment eligibility
  • Benefit to employee is based upon hours that are being reduced as a share of full-time work – that reduction in hours % is multiplied by the UI benefit the worker would receive if they were fully unemployed
  • Current benefit rate of UI is maximum of ½ of income or up to $823/week
  • WorkShare participants must plan for at least 10% reduction in hours and no more than 60% reduction in hours

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Rapid Response – Layoff Aversion
Rapid Response tries to identify the exact needs of a company in crisis. Once the needs are assessed then the team tries to help the company establish partnerships with other organizations and build networks to help them try and acquire those needs meant to reduce the possibility of layoffs or a plant closure. Some of the resources available to companies to maintain their workforce include:

  • Matching businesses that are in transition with businesses that are hiring for similar
  • Communicating directly with employers on their needs and what is necessary to avoid layoffs
  • Educate employers on various state and local programs and agencies including:
    • WorkShare Program
    • Workforce Training Funds
    • Career Centers
    • Tax Incentives
    • Business Loans
    • Growth based systems for manufacturing
    • Employee Ownership and succession plans
    • Export opportunity identification
    • SBA information

For more information, contact Rapid Response.

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Unemployment for Employers
Employer Unemployment Insurance Contribution Rates/Experience Ratings
We know employers are concerned about their unemployment expenses as a result of so many people accessing unemployment benefits. In response, the Massachusetts Senate released a bill (not yet law), that would exempt an employer’s experience rating from the impacts of an unemployment claim resulting from the effects of COVID-19 or the effects of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency, and directs resulting charges to the solvency account that are not paid for by federal funds for either a year from the effective date or 6 months after the termination of the March 10, 2020 state of emergency, whichever is later.

This state bill is not yet law and still needs to pass the Senate and the House and be signed by the Governor before it would take effect.

Temporary Layoffs/Furloughed Employees
At the state level, temporarily unemployed/furloughed workers should be eligible for unemployment benefits. According to DUA, workers who are temporarily unemployed due to lack of work resulting from COVID-19 who expect to return to work with their employer will be considered on standby status. Those laid-off employees will be expected to reasonably maintain contact with their employer while unemployed and be available for work when the employer offers it. The employer should have employees ready to return when the employer is ready to resume business.

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MEMA’s Emergency Operations Center’s Private Sector Hotline
The hotline will be staffed Monday – Friday from 8am to 4pm. The number for the hotline is 508-820-2094.

Small Business Support from the Attorney General’s Office
Small Business Relief Partnership Grant Program
The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AGO) has committed $500,000 to assisting municipalities and regional planning agencies with providing financial relief to local small businesses most impacted by closures, policies, or general loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Municipalities and regional planning agencies will be awarded funds up to $50,000 per request to administer or supplement a grant program targeting local small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. Massachusetts municipal governments and Massachusetts Regional Planning Agencies are invited to apply. More information can be found here.

The Small Business Relief Fund Grant Program is now closed and not accepting new applications.

Legal Assistance for Small Businesses and Nonprofits
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has joined the COVID Relief Coalition, a coalition of law firms, nonprofits, and government agencies to provide vulnerable businesses and mission-driven organizations with pro bono legal support. Coalition partners have created a new website that will support the Coalition’s mission by enabling small businesses and nonprofits to learn about and apply for emergency loans and other sources of relief. 

The website will connect eligible small businesses and nonprofits to free legal support by Coalition partners, and can be accessed here.

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