Qualifying Americans should begin seeing individual checks and unemployment expansion in the coming week, according to the delegation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
U.S. Congress members held a teleconference call Wednesday afternoon to discuss the $2 trillion stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. The package will send $1,200 checks directly to many Americans, significantly expand unemployment benefits and eligibility, and establish a small business loan fund.
One of the major parts of the package is the disaster loan assistance through the Small Business Administration.
U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Bourne, said his district of southern Massachusetts and the Cape and Islands has been particularly hard hit and that the small business grants would only keep businesses afloat. “The layoffs have already occured for most of the hospitality industry because all the events have been canceled throughout this period through the summer,” Keating said. “The restaurants and bars are all closed.” “This is a seasonal industry,” Keating continued. “They make their money in the shoulder seasons. Unlike so many other small businesses in the country, if they don’t make their money in the late spring, summer, and early fall — they’re out of business.”
Keating said businesses can apply for disaster loan assistance by going to covid19relief.sba.gov/#/.
On Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker said the expansion of unemployment benefits under the CARES act will make self-employed, contract, and 1099 form workers eligible for benefits, but added the state has not received guidance from the federal government on how to implement the expansion.
During the teleconference call, U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, said Congress is pushing the Department of Labor to get information to states as soon as possible. “We anticipate they will have this within the next few days, but we are working and pushing them because we know how critical this funding is.” Clark echoed comments Baker made that if you were not eligible for unemployment before the CARES act, do not apply for it now until there is clear guidance from the state.
Direct deposit payments to people who qualify for the $1,200 could begin as soon as April 7, according to Clark.
Robert Arcudi, an Island accountant, told The Times the bill will be based on a person’s adjusted gross income for their 2018 tax return. Payments are lowered $5 for every additional $100 in income over $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly, according to Arcudi. A single adult earning $85,000 would get $700.
Massachusetts is expected to receive more than $3.8 billion in funding calculated by formulas through the stimulus package. The state is also going to receive additional funds from programs at the discretion of federal agencies, but they said that amount is difficult to quantify.
Meanwhile, The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital continues to test patients with symptoms. As of Wednesday, the hospital has collected 113 test samples. There have been 89 negative test results and 16 pending. Eight tests have come back positive. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Island are at nine following a symptomatic diagnosis on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Department of Public Health (DPH) released its daily count of confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19, showing 1,118 new cases in Massachusetts for a total confirmed case count of 7,738. Thirty-three new deaths brought the state total to 122. More than 51,000 people in the state have been tested. (The chart still connects Dukes and Nantucket counties showing 11 cases between the two, an indication that the DPH stats are behind.)
Courts remain closed through May 4
In an order superseding any previous orders, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court extended strict limits on courthouse access until at least May 4 in light of the ongoing pandemic. The Massachusetts trial court system also set up a helpline for non emergency matters and for general questions.
“All trials, whether jury or bench, in both criminal and civil cases, scheduled to begin in Massachusetts state courts on or before May 1, 2020, are continued to a date no earlier than May 4, 2020,” a release states, “unless the trial is a bench trial in a civil matter and may be conducted otherwise than in-person by agreement of the parties and of the court.”
Courthouses will be closed to public access “except to conduct emergency hearings that cannot be resolved virtually,” the release states.
“All court clerks’, registers’, and recorder’s offices shall continue to conduct court business — to accept the filing of pleadings and other documents in emergency matters, to schedule and facilitate hearings in emergency matters, to issue orders in emergency matters, to answer questions from attorneys, litigants, and the general public, and to conduct other necessary business of the respective court,” the release states. “All such business will be conducted virtually, except when the filing of pleadings and other documents in emergency matters cannot be accomplished virtually.”
On April 2, the trial court system will launch a helpline for non-emergency matters and general questions regarding civil and criminal cases and to aid callers in their navigation of the court system.
“The Help Line will be staffed from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and can be reached by calling 833-91COURT,” the release states.
Rich Saltzberg contributed to this story.