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Massachusetts To Start Mailing $500 'Premium Pay' Checks To Eligible Essential Workers

BOSTON (CBS) -- Keep an eye on the mail - Gov. Charlie Baker's administration said Wednesday that $500 checks are starting to go out to eligible Massachusetts residents as part of the "Essential Employee Premium Pay Program."

Half a million low-income workers will be the first to get the payments, which are being mailed out over the next week. This is the first round of funds to go out under the $460 million program approved by the Legislature in December.

Click here for more information on eligibility.

The legislation Baker signed into law called for payments of between $500 and $2,000 for essential employees who worked in-person – not remotely – during the state of emergency that was declared on March 10, 2020 and lasted for more than a year. But Baker's administration, in an effort to get money out the door as fast as possible, is determining eligibility for this round of payments solely based on 2020 tax return information, as there wasn't a faster way to assess who worked in-person and who didn't during the state of emergency. And the administration decided to keep the check amount at $500 to get money to more people.

Baker vetoed a section of the bill that would have set up an advisory panel to determine who exactly would be eligible.

"Massachusetts residents will be eligible for first round payments if, based on filed 2020 Massachusetts tax returns, their income from employment was at least $12,750 – the equivalent to working 20 hours/week for 50 weeks at minimum wage as of 2020 – and their total income put them below 300% of the federal poverty level," the administration said in a statement.

premium pay elgibility
Income eligibility for the premium pay checks (Image credit: Baker Administration)

Anyone who received unemployment compensation in 2020 is not eligible in the first round. Residents who have questions about their eligibility can contact a call center at (866) 750-9803 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Baker's office said it will release plans to distribute the remaining money in the future based on information from 2021 tax returns.


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