The Baker Administration announced that nearly $49 million in grants to small businesses will be awarded through the COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.

In October, the $50.8 million grant program was announced as a key component of Partnerships for Recovery, the administration’s comprehensive plan to get people back to work, support small businesses, foster innovation, revitalize downtowns, and ensure housing stability.

Of the businesses being notified of their successful applications, each meets the preferred criteria of being owned by women, minorities, veterans, individuals with disabilities, or that identify as LGBTQ. Additionally, every completed application received from a qualified minority-owned business that has not been able to receive prior aid from federal, state or local programs established to support businesses during the pandemic will be receiving relief.

“As the pandemic continues to create challenges across the commonwealth, our administration is pleased to partner with Mass Growth Capital Corporation to award almost $50 million to small business owners disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

“We are thankful to our state, local and federal partners for their collaboration to equitably distribute these funds, and remain committed to working together to deliver additional relief to the families and businesses of Massachusetts.”

“Our administration is proud to announce almost $50 million in grants to support historically underrepresented small business owners as they navigate the pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.

“We thank Mass Growth Capital Corporation for their partnership to distribute these funds quickly, and look forward to continuing to work with business and community leaders to ensure a strong, equitable recovery from COVID-19.”

MGCC worked with a statewide network of local non-profits, small business technical assistance providers, and other organizations that support minority enterprises, including BECMA, Amplify LatinX, the Business Equity Initiative, Massachusetts Association of CDCs (MACDC), LISC and the statewide Coalition for an Equitable Economy, to reach businesses and entrepreneurs that would match the program’s priorities.

The Small Business Grant Program received more than 10,000 applications seeking $500 million.

The Fiscal Year 2021 budget recently signed by Governor Baker including an additional $17.5 million for the Small Business Grant Program. This funding will be distributed using the same criteria, and MGCC will review applications already submitted. Small businesses that did not receive awards in the first round do not need to reapply, and no new applications will be accepted.

The FY21 budget also includes $17.5 million for community development financial institutions (CDFI) grants and loans, $5 million for small business technical assistance, and $3.9 million for technical assistance and grants, including for small business online and digital tools.

Summary of Unemployment Sections of the COVID Relief Bill

  • Extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to March 14, 2021 and allows individuals receiving benefits as of March 14, 2021 to continue through April 5, 2021, as long as the individual has not reached the maximum number of weeks.
  • Increases the number of weeks of benefits an individual may claim from 39 to 50.
  • Provides for appeals to be at the state level.
  • Provides states authority to waive overpayments made without fault on the part of the individual or when such repayment would violate equity and good conscience.
  • Provides a transition rule for certain individuals transitioning between PUA and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
  • Limits payment of retroactive PUA benefits to weeks of unemployment after December 1, 2020.

Extension of Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations. Extends through March 14, 2021 a provision in the CARES Act which amended the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide federal support to cover 50 percent of the costs of unemployment benefits for employees of state and local governments and non-profit organizations.

Extension of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. Restores the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplement to all state and federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week, starting after December 26 and ending March 14, 2021.

Extension of Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week. Extends through March 14, 2021 the CARES Act provision that reimbursed states for the cost of waiving the “waiting week” for regular unemployment compensation. Sets the reimbursement percentage for weeks ending after December 26, 2020 at 50 percent.

Extension of Emergency State Staffing Flexibility. Extends through March 14, 2021 the CARES Act provision which gave state unemployment offices temporary, emergency authority to use “non-merit” staff.

Extension and Benefit Phaseout Rule for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

  • Extends Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) to March 14, 2021 and allows individuals receiving benefits as of March 14, 2021 to continue through April 5, 2021, as long as the individual has not reached the maximum number of weeks.
  • Increases the number of weeks of benefits an individual may claim through the PEUC program from 13 to 24.
  • Provides rules for states about sequencing these benefits with other unemployment benefits.

Extension of Temporary Financing of Short-Time Compensation Payments in States with Programs in Law. Extends through March 14, 2021 the CARES Act provision that provided temporary 100 percent federal financing for Short-Time Compensation (“worksharing”) programs which are established in state law.

Extension of Temporary Financing of Short-Time Compensation Agreements for States Without Programs in Law. Extends through March 14, 2021 the CARES Act provision which provided a 50 percent subsidy to non-statutory, temporary state Short-Time Compensation programs.

Extension of Temporary Assistance for States with Advances. Extends through March 14, 2021 accumulation of interest on federal loans states have taken in order to pay state unemployment benefits. The loans allow states with low balances in their unemployment trust funds to delay employer tax increases or other employer surcharges while the economy is struggling.

Extension of Full Federal Funding of Extended Unemployment Compensation. Extends through March 14, 2021 the provision in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which provided temporary full federal financing of Extended Benefits (EB) for high-unemployment states. States are normally required to pay 50 percent of the cost of EB, which is a program in permanent law.

Continued Assistance to Rail Workers

  • This section provides the short title.
  • This section restores the federal supplemental benefit for unemployed railroad workers at $600/registration period for registration periods beginning after December 26, 2020 and on or before March 14, 2021.
  • Provides up to 11 additional weeks of unemployment benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) for qualifying railroad workers. This provision also extends the availability of the 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits provided under the CARES Act. These weeks are not available to those whose extended benefit period begins after March 14, 2021, and they turn off for everyone for any registration period beginning after April 5, 2021.
  • This section extends the waiver of the 7-day waiting period for benefits provided under the RUIA through March 14, 2021.

Continued Assistance to Rail Workers

  • This section provides the short title.
  • This section restores the federal supplemental benefit for unemployed railroad workers at $600/registration period for registration periods beginning after December 26, 2020 and on or before March 14, 2021.
  • Provides up to 11 additional weeks of unemployment benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) for qualifying railroad workers. This provision also extends the availability of the 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits provided under the CARES Act. These weeks are not available to those whose extended benefit period begins after March 14, 2021, and they turn off for everyone for any registration period beginning after April 5, 2021.
  • This section extends the waiver of the 7-day waiting period for benefits provided under the RUIA through March 14, 2021.

Subchapter V – Return to Work Reporting Requirement

Effective 30 days after enactment, requires states to have methods in place to address situations when claimants of unemployment compensation refuse to return to work or refuse to accept an offer of suitable work without good cause including:

  • A reporting method for employers to notify the state when an individual refuses employment.
  • A plain language notice to claimants about state return to work laws, rights to refuse to return to work or to refuse suitable work and information on contesting a denial of a claim, as well as what constitutes suitable work, including a claimant’s right to refuse work that poses a risk to the claimant’s health and safety.

Other Related Provisions and Technical Corrections

  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation. Provides a federally funded $100 per week additional benefit to individuals who have at least $5,000 a year in self-employment income but are disqualified from receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because they are eligible for regular state unemployment benefits. This mixed-earner supplemental benefit would be added to the FPUC and would terminate along with it on March 14, 2021. This provision would be effective for future unemployment benefit payments after a state chose to make an agreement with the Department of Labor.
  • Lost Wages Assistance Recoupment Fairness. Allows states to waive recovery of “Lost Wages Assistance” overpayments for which the recipient was not at fault and would suffer hardship if required to repay the benefits the same way they do in state unemployment benefits.
  • Continuing Eligibility for Certain Recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Ensures individuals who are otherwise eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance do not have their benefits terminated because of inadvertent or state system failure errors in past required weekly benefit recertifications, so long as the state made good faith efforts to implement the program.
  • Technical Correction for Nonprofit Organizations Classified as Federal Instrumentalities. This section makes a technical correction to allow certain federal instrumentalities that are reimbursable employers to receive the same federal subsidy for reimbursable employers that is provided to nonprofit organizations and government entities (see Sec. 1102).
  • Waiver to Preserve Access to Extended Benefits in High Unemployment States. Provides a temporary waiver of the mandatory “EB freeze period” for states that trigger back onto the program because of fluctuations in their unemployment rates, beginning November 1, 2020 and ending December 31, 2021.
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