COVID-19 Special Edition
Dear Members and Partners,

MWA will be providing twice weekly Workforce Connections updates as our state, our country, and the world reacts to the COVID-19 outbreak. Please share these with your staff and encourage them to sign up for the newsletter .

We want to begin with thanking everyone in the workforce system who is working around the clock to serve customers and keep their staff safe. We are in unprecedented times and together we will get through this.

Be well,

Tonja Mettlach
Raija Vaisanen
COVID-19 Updates 4.7.2020
State COVID-19 Policy Updates:
Executive Orders/Administrative Updates
  • Although the U.S. Department of Labor released some guidance this weekend (see below in Federal Policy Updates for more) related to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program available through the CARES Act, MA DUA is still recommending that those who would not traditionally be eligible for UI, like the self-employed, not file for UI yet. DUA states that payment under PUA will be retroactive to February 2, 2020 once they are able to implement the guidance received from DOL. DUA is working to add the $600 from the FPUC to the weekly benefits of traditional claimants retroactive to March 29, 2020 and to add on the 13 week extension. Check back here for DUA's updates to these programs. 

  • DUA continues to hold virtual town halls during the week and weekend. These town halls go over how to apply online for UI and staff take live questions from participants. Click here to find out additional information and register.

  • The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has launched a COVID-19 resources page for consumers. It provides the most relevant and timely information about where consumers can access fresh, local food from farmers and producers across the Commonwealth. You can visit this here.

  • The bills listed below have been passed but the House or Senate but still have not been passed by both chambers. The House and Senate next meet in informal sessions on Thursday.
  • H.4615, An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency. You can view the full text of this legislation here. This legislation would establish a moratorium on most residential and commercial evictions and residential foreclosures during the COVID-19 state of emergency and for 30 days after it ends. Passed by the House, waiting on the Senate.
  • See here for a letter sent by over 200 organizations across the state supporting legislation to ensure people are not foreclosed on or evicted during the COVID-19 Crisis. MWA added its support.
  • H.4616, An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts, and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19. You can view the full text of the bill here. This legislation would allow Commissioner Riley the authority to modify or waive MCAS testing requirements for high school seniors. Passed by the House, waiting on the Senate.
  • S.2618, An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System. You can view the full text of the bill here. This legislation would make four changes to the state's UI program by: (1) uncapping the UI dependency allotment; (2) extending the grace period for which nonprofits would have to fund their contributions; (3) ensuring employers don't face increased UI premiums due to COVID-19; and (4) securing a four-week extension of benefits to 30 weeks for workers if unemployment keeps spiking. Passed by the Senate, waiting on the House.
  • Ways and Means Committee Chairs, Rep. Michlewitz and Sen. Rodrigues, and A&F Secretary Heffernan, planned to hold a "virtual roundtable" today with economic experts to try to get a better sense of what COVID-19 will mean for the state budget. Due to technical difficulties this was postponed to next Tuesday. Look for our updates from the hearing next week.

Resources for Businesses
  • The Massachusetts Small Business Association (SBA) Office website has resources on its lending programs including the Paycheck Protection Program. TSNE has also written a blog post about applying for the program, particularly if you are a non-profit. At this time, banks may not be accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program because they are waiting for clearer guidance from the SBA. Check with your local lender to see where they are in the process.
  • An FAQ on the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) can be found here. Posters are available on employee rights under the law in English and Spanish. The page specifically for businesses can be found here. More on this can also be found in our MWA Business Resource Guide linked below.
  • MassHire BizWorks is regularly updating a powerpoint resource for businesses that includes contact information for their regional staff who can help businesses with WorkShare, layoff aversion and other opportunities. Click here for the latest powerpoint, and go here for more information (updated ppts can be found at the bottom of the page under "Additional Resources").
Updated 4.7.2020: MWA Business Resources Guide in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
We've developed a one page sheet of resources for businesses during this incredibly difficult time. We will continue to update this as we go. This update includes information about the CARES act Employer Tex Credit and updated info on MassHire BizWorks resources. Please don't hesitate to contact Raija if there are resources to add.

Click here to download the latest PDF version.

Click here for a Word version you can customize for your MassHire region.
Federal COVID-19 Policy Updates:
  • Another program for businesses that was created by the federal CARES Act is the Employee Retention Tax Credit. This is available to all businesses and tax-exempt organizations. A business can take advantage of this in lieu of the SBA PPP Loan Program but cannot do both. This program allows a 50% refundable tax credit on up to $10,000 in wages per employee, per quarter. There is an advance option for this credit. Additional forms, guidance, and FAQs which can be found here and here. Note there are two conditions that need to be met to apply and they include:
  • The business is fully or partially suspended due to a government order during the COVID-19 outbreak, OR;
  • A decline in 50% plus gross receipts, until gross receipts recover to 80% of a quarter in a prior year (2019).

  • The U.S. Department of Labor released guidance Sunday for states that deal with the administration of and eligibility criteria for state unemployment insurance programs, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) meant to benefit workers who would not typically be eligible for UI, like the self-employed or gig workers. Click here for the guidance document and click here for the press release.

  • The U.S. Department of Labor released guidance on Saturday related to administration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program. Click here for the press release and click here for the guidance document (UIPL 15-20).

  • The Office of Management and Budget released guidelines related to administrative relief during the pandemic. To read the MDCS issuance, click here. For the OMB memo, click here.

  • The U.S. Department of Labor has a website devoted to information on unemployment insurance relief during COVID-19. Click here.

  • The White House has extended its deadline for participation in its online dialogue about expanding family and medical leave to employees affected by COVID-19. Comments are now due by April 10th. Click here to submit ideas and comments and to add your support to those previously submitted.

  • Last week MWA joined almost 20 states who are part of the United States Workforce Association (USWA) in a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the White House, and DOL. The letter outlines the federal investment the workforce system will need in a subsequent stimulus package. You can view the letter here. In addition, USWA joined with over 30 other national organizations in sending an additional workforce letter which can be viewed here.

Economic/Employment Research Resources
Strada Education Network is doing a weekly survey of Americans' responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on their lives, their work and their needs for education and training. The latest survey results show most people are concerned about losing their jobs and many will be looking to online and on-the-job opportunities for education and training.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) released its monthly business confidence index this morning, showing a steep decline in employer confidence for March. Several local economic analysts shared their thoughts about what this may mean for the MA economy going forward. Click here to read more.
Are you new to using Zoom? Looking for some tips?

We're all living in a more intensely virtual world. Many of you are joining virtual meetings multiple times a day using Zoom, by phone or from your tablet or computer. Zoom provides some free live webinars and also pre-recorded video tutorials to help you get more comfortable with the platform and learn how to use it more effectively. Check out these options below and let us know if you would like more support.
  • Good News - Holyoke manufacturer, Universal Plastics, adjusts product line to meet needs for PPE during COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for the article.

  • Good News - UMass Amherst engineers and nurses design and fast-track low-cost face shield to provide PPE devices to health care. Click here for the article.

  • Good News - Governor Baker and First Lady of MA Lauren Baker announced the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund. Currently at $13M, the fund is targeted to helping frontline workers and vulnerable populations and will be granted to eligible non-profit organizations and public/private partnerships. Click here to learn more, donate, or apply for funds.

  • Resource - Commonwealth Corporation is regularly updating a resource document in response to COVID-19 for a variety of audiences including workers, businesses, those seeking educational resources for youth, mental health resources, and more. Click here to download the latest updated document.

  • Resource - John Hampe of MassHire Metro North Career Center has shared a webinar for orienting staff to WebEx called "Have Fun with It!" The tutorial helps staff learn how to use the platform for setting up career center seminars. Click here to view the video.

  • Resource - The Community Action Partnership has developed a guide of resources for crisis communications. Click here to read more.

  • Resource for nonprofits - The federal CARES Act provides funding for states to forgive 50% of the reimbursements owed to the state UI trust fund by nonprofits who self-insure for unemployment. On the state level, the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) is leading a coalition of associations to advocate for additional state relief/hold harmless for self-insured nonprofits, and a 120-day deferment of payments owed by organizations that self-insure for unemployment. Click here to see the letter sent by MNN and the coalition to legislative leaders and the Baker Administration last week.

  • Funding Available: **Please note many of these deadlines are in the process of being extended. Please contact each agency or check their websites for the most up to date information.**
  • Commonwealth Corporation FY20 Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund Grants, proposals due May 11th (extended from previous deadline of April 9th).
  • Please note that other solicitations through WCTF and Learn to Earn are likely not to be released until mid-April at the earliest, with awards not being made sooner than the beginning of FY21 (July 2020).
  • Mass Clean Energy Center 2020 Offshore Wind Workforce Training and Development, proposals due May 8th (extended beyond prior due date of April 17th).
  • *NEW*: The MA Clean Energy Center is holding a webinar on April 15th at 2PM on offshore wind workforce development in Massachusetts. BW Research will present preliminary research and analysis of regional offshore wind workforce strengths, an overview of existing regional training programs, and detailed work activities for offshore wind development, including occupational roles, offshore wind career pathways, and best practices for offshore wind workforce development. Click here to register. A recording of the webinar will be available following for those who cannot attend live here.

  • Job Opportunity - The Department of Unemployment Assistance is hiring job service representatives (multiple openings). Click here to read the job description and apply.

  • Job Opportunities - Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) is posting for a Director of the Career Centers System for the MassHire Metro North Career Center, in addition to a Program Manager and Assistant Program Manager. For the job postings click here. To learn more and apply online click here.

  • Job Opportunities - Commonwealth Corporation is hiring Employer Outreach Specialists, a Sr. Program Manager for Youth Development, Salesforce Nonprofit Consultant, and a Coach for Competency Based Education Coaching Services. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - MassHire Springfield Career Center is hiring a Customer Service Specialist. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunities - MassHire Metro North Workforce Board is seeking a Manager of Workforce Systems and a Youth Program Specialist. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Training Opportunity: MDCS trainings on how to use Burning Glass's Labor Insight tool have been moved online to webinars on May 6th. Click here for the issuance and link to register.

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