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$460 million plan to provide pandemic bonuses to ‘essential’ workers inches forward

December 14, 2021

State legislation targets lower-income front-line workers, but the details on the payments remain in dispute.

The state Legislature has voted to spend more than $4 billion in federal pandemic relief aid and surplus tax revenue on a wide variety of efforts, including such things as workforce training along with mental health and housing programs. In addition, the package includes $460 million to provide bonuses for lower-income “essential” workers.
The bonuses could potentially go to front-line workers in the education and health care areas, for example. It could also include some state workers.
Still remaining to be done regarding these bonuses for front-line workers: Setting up further criteria for who would qualify and for how much. The bonuses in the legislation would range from $500 to $2,000 per worker.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Charlie Baker are currently at odds over the details.
The federal aid is under President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, an economic stimulus bill signed into law in March. Biden’s goal was to pull the country out of the historic recession triggered by the COVID-19 crisis that began under President Trump.
As approved by the Legislature, the Massachusetts bonus program would target workers who make up to 300 percent above the federal poverty limit and worked in person during the governor’s COVID-19 state of emergency.
That means that a single individual working 40 hours per week would qualify if he or she made less than $18.58 per hour, or less than $38,640 per year. The formula could get more complicated if there is another member of the family who has an income.
If a single-person head of household has other dependents, that individual could potentially make more per hour, or per year, and still qualify. (For example, a four-person household is allowed $79,500 in income annually at 300 percent of the poverty level. That’s $38.22 per hour if the single-person head of household works 40 hours per week.)