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Solvency Fund Legislation Prompts Two Month Extension of First Quarter UI Payment Due Date
 

State officials have again extended the due date for first quarter unemployment insurance payments from Massachusetts employers. Originally extended by the Department of Unemployment Assistance to June 1st, the deadline for employer payments has again been pushed out another two months to Monday, August 2nd.  August 2nd is also the due date for second quarter employment and wage detail filings and contributions. Members can expect further information on the 2021 employer rates and solvency assessment from the Department of Unemployment Assistance soon.

The delay comes as the Legislature and Baker Administration work to pass legislation designed to address the unexpected solvency assessment increases recently experienced by employers in their Q1 bills.  Currently on the Governor’s desk awaiting approval, the legislation proposes shifting pandemic-related unemployment claims, currently charged to the solvency fund, into a new COVID fund which will be amortized over a 20-year period through bonding.  The move is designed to provide employers with short-term relief from the solvency assessment spikes, however the burden of paying off the program’s $7 billion deficit over the 20-year period will remain squarely on the shoulders of the Commonwealth’s employers. 

RAM continues to push for the state to share in this responsibility by utilizing a portion of the billions of dollars in American Rescue Plan funds coming into the Commonwealth to pay down a portion of the UI deficit. RAM members are strongly encouraged to take action today by contacting their state legislators and Governor Baker and requesting their support in using federal pandemic recovery funds as a means to mitigate the long-term impact of the UI deficit on businesses and job growth.  Please join us in this effort by contacting your elected officials today.

 

Click here to send your message.

 

ACTION REQUESTED: Comments to Federal Reserve on Debit Transaction Routing and Regulated Debit Rate

 

RAM members are urged to take action now by contacting the Federal Reserve Board and requesting their support in providing your businesses with relief from the high cost of accepting debit card payments.  
  
Recently, the Federal Reserve Board issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to clarify that Regulation II, and the Durbin Amendment, require that a merchant be provided a choice between two competing debit networks for all debit transactions, whether card-present or card-not-present.  Clarification and enforcement of these debit routing provisions on card-not-present transactions will ensure businesses enjoy access to the same cost-saving benefits of competitive routing currently utilized for in-store transactions, when accepting debit payments online and in mobile transactions.
 
In addition to requesting the Federal Reserve Board's support of this clarification, members should also take this opportunity to request that the Federal Reserve Board consider lowering the current debit interchange rate to reflect both the reduction in issuer costs and fraud losses, as reported in their biannual survey. 

Please use the NRF Grassroots Action Page to assist you with your communication.  If retailers do not file comments on behalf of their businesses, the banks will overwhelm the Federal Register docket with comments of their own urging the Federal Reserve to not take this action. The result will be higher costs and less competition for merchants when it comes to payment processing. 

 All comments are due by August 11, 2021! 

Additional Resource:  NRF Webinar on Fed Reserve Payments Rulemaking – Learn more about why these issues are important to your business.

Sales Tax Holiday Weekend Set for August 14 & 15, 2021 

 

For information on this year’s Sales Tax Holiday weekend, to be held on August 14 and 15, 2021, members are encouraged to review the following:

 

Sales Tax Holiday Regulation:  830 CMR 64H.1.8: Sales Tax Holiday  

FAQ’s:  https://www.mass.gov/info-details/sales-tax-holiday-frequently-asked-questions

 

 

Gov. Baker Signs COVID-19 Policy Extensions Law

 
On June 16, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill extending certain pandemic related policies, including cocktails to-go and the extension of outdoor dining.  The Legislature worked quickly to get Baker a partial compromise on issues of agreement, while continuing to hold discussions on other pandemic related policy matters.  The law reinstates certain policies that technically had lapsed with the end of the State of Emergency Order that expired at midnight on June 15th.   

 
The new law extends special permits for expanded outdoor dining, eviction protections and virtual public meetings through April 1, 2022.  The law also allows restaurants to sell beer, wine and cocktails to-go until May 1, 2022.

 

Baker Signs COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Law

On May 28th, 2021, Governor Baker signed legislation establishing a COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave program in the Commonwealth.  Effective immediately, all Massachusetts employers must grant up to 40 hours of emergency paid leave for full time employees, and prorated emergency paid leave for part time employees, for certain COVID-19 related purposes. 

Employers are eligible for reimbursement for the cost of providing the required paid leave through a new $75 million state fund created by the law, unless the employer is otherwise eligible for reimbursement from the federal COVID-19 emergency sick leave tax credit program established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  Employers must make the required leave available through September 30, 2021, or until the state fund is exhausted. 

The state's COVID-19 Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave website provides important information about the program and resources to facilitate implementation, including Guidance for employers, Frequently Asked Questions, and the required Notice to Employees.  Additional guidance will be issued in the coming weeks, including information on how employers may apply for reimbursement from the state.

RAM will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

 

New Online Loss Prevention Information Sharing Platform 

The RAM LP Committee recently introduced the New England Organize Retail Crime Alliance’s (NEORCA) new online information sharing platform. 

LP committee members interested in requesting access to the service, should click here.  

 

 

The RAM Health Insurance Cooperative is NOW thriving – and growing – in 2021! 

The RAMHIC program offers RAM members:

  • A 3% discount off premium rates for small businesses in the small group market (groups of 1-50 employees).
  • Access to every small group plan offered by BCBSMA.  As well as a two plan option for added flexibility.
  • Defined contribution options to address the needs of both your business and your employees.

 

All BCBSMA small group plans through RAM come with:

  • A wellness program with potential employee incentives of up to $300 and an opportunity to earn 7.5% in backend employer incentives.
  • A free supplemental hospitalization policy for all subscribers, which covers $750 for a hospital admission and $150 each additional day up to 10 days.
  • A free $10,000 life insurance policy for all subscribers.
Click for more information on RAMHIC.