On September 29, 2021, legislation was passed amending Chapter 16 of the Acts of 2021 (An Act Providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave). Per the mass.gov website, a copy of the legislation amending the law will be posted when available.
The amendment extends the duration of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program from September 30, 2021, to April 1, 2022, or exhaustion of the $75 million in program funds allocated by the Commonwealth, whichever first occurs. The amendment also adds an additional qualifying reason for leave under the program to include the need “to care for a family member who needs to obtain or recover from a COVID-19 immunization.” This additional reason(s) for leave is only available to employees for leave taken after October 1, 2021.
The Commonwealth has updated some of its Frequently Asked Questions about the new amendment which employers should carefully review. Question 8 under the Interactions with Federal and Non-Federal Programs section of the FAQs provides important clarification for the reimbursement process for small employers who voluntarily participated in emergency paid sick leave provided under the ARPA which comes to end on September 30, 2021. Employers providing leave under the MA COVID-19 Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program will be able to streamline their reimbursement request process and seek reimbursement directly from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for paid leave provided to employees for qualifying COVID-19 related reasons after September 30, 2021. Please see Question 8 which has been republished in full below:
Q8. How will smaller employers be affected when the federal EPSL program expires on September 30, 2021, while the state mandate is extended?
Employers of all sizes are covered by the state program. Until September 30, 2021, since federal credits are primary and smaller employers in most cases can access federal credits, they would claim state reimbursement only for costs for which they are not claiming federal tax credits. After September 30, assuming the federal program is not extended, employers can claim reimbursement for eligible costs from the state, without seeking a federal tax credit.
The FAQs updated on September 29, 2021, also provide additional information as to how employers will be notified when the state funds have been depleted. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts states in relevant part as follows: “If the state funds are expected to become depleted prior to April 1, 2022, employers will be notified with 15 days advance notice. Employers may continue to access reimbursement for leave taken up until the termination date of the program, and additional state funding will be added to the program as necessary to ensure that all eligible costs are reimbursed.”