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State readies second round of $500 checks for low-income workers

Massachusetts Statehouse front entrance

The administration of Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday said it was preparing a second round of $500 payments to low-income workers under the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program. The payments will deliver approximately $165 million to an estimated 330,000 eligible workers in June.

BOSTON — A second round of $500 checks will be on the way to about 330,000 low-income workers across Massachusetts next month as the Baker administration continues to roll out a $460 million premium pay program authorized last year.

The first round of payments went out in March and provided a cumulative $250 million to about 500,000 people and June’s volley of checks will total about $165 million, the Executive Office of Administration and Finance said Thursday.

No one who received a payment in the first round will be eligible to receive one in the second round. Massachusetts workers will be eligible for the payment if their 2021 income from employment was at least $13,500 (the equivalent of working 20 hours a week for 50 weeks at the 2021 minimum wage of $13.50 an hour) and their total income put them below 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($38,640 for a single filer).

The state is using 2021 tax returns to determine eligibility. No one who received unemployment payments in 2021 will be eligible.

After the second round of premium pay goes out the door, the Baker administration will have used up about $415 million of the $460 million authorized for the program, which was funded through the American Rescue Plan Act and intended to benefit low-income residents who worked throughout the pandemic.

The administration and finance office said it will release information on plans to disburse the funds that remain after the June round of payments “in the future.”

Workers who have questions about their eligibility for the payments can call the state’s dedicated premium pay call center is 866-750-9803 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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