Payment delay offers window for new unemployment insurance relief bill

Coronavirus Local Impact

FILE – In this July 18, 2020 file photo a closed sign hangs in the window of a barber shop in Burbank, Calif. California’s unemployment rate has fallen to 11.4% in August. The Employment Development Department says the state added 101,900 jobs in August. Most of those were government jobs, including temporary positions for the U.S. Census. California lost more than 2.6 million jobs in March and April because of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Massachusetts employers are getting a one-month reprieve on higher unemployment insurance premiums, and the delay will give Beacon Hill time to resume work on a plan to address “sticker shock” issues left unresolved in a just-approved law.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance notified employers Thursday night that first quarter payments, which were due on April 30, will instead be due on June 1. The delay gives businesses more time to prepare to make larger payments, and the Legislature time to address a spike in jobless system solvency assessments, which surprised some policymakers.

In the notice to employers, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta and DUA Director Richard Jeffers said the Baker administration “is further evaluating the solvency rate increase and will provide more information at a later date.” In an email to members, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst said the group had been informed that DUA would issue emergency rules to change the due date.

“This delay will give the Beacon Hill leadership time to determine a pathway for actual relief on the assessment beyond just a delay,” Hurst wrote. “The Solvency Fund Assessment normally covers socialized costs such as dependency allowances and charges for benefits for employers that went out of business, but with COVID-19, that assessment has grown 1,600 percent since a year ago with no real notice until the last couple of weeks.”

Employers are urging the state to use newly allocated federal relief funds to soften the impact of rising contributions on businesses, especially those that are struggling the most to get back on their feet due to pandemic impacts. While payments are being delayed, quarterly employment and wage detail filings are still due by Friday, April 30, 2021.

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