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May 22, 2020

Collection bill stays in legislature as UI bill moves to Baker

A large brick building with columns and a large gold dome on top sits behind a gate with steps leading up to it. Photo | Flickr | Ajay Suresh The Massachusetts State House

With two COVID-19 bills on the Legislature's plate Thursday, only one dealing with the unemployment insurance system traversed the final mile to the governor's desk before both chambers broke for Memorial Day weekend.

Gov. Charlie Baker now has 10 days to act on a package of unemployment insurance relief that includes provisions aimed at helping employers and claimants during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a record surge in jobless claims.

The subject of several amendments since April, the bill (S 2618) includes "a number of important tools," Sen. Bruce Tarr said, "to help not only the integrity of the unemployment insurance system but also to help those who are dependent upon it, and for whom so many have become dependent as a result."

Included is an expansion of the maximum allowable claims period from 26 weeks to 30 weeks for any week exceeding 100,000 claims; a provision exempting employers' experience ratings from impacts of COVID-19 and the current state of emergency; and the lifting of a cap on dependency benefits which currently stands at 50 percent, Tarr said.

The House and Senate have bounced versions of the COVID-19 data reporting bill (H 4672) back and forth for weeks and Thursday's session showed no public signs of progress. The bill would ramp up daily COVID-19 data reporting from the Department of Public Health for facilities like long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living residences.

A new draft approved by the Senate Monday would extend the requirements to the state's two soldiers' homes. Both branches are back in session Tuesday morning. 

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