August 2, 2021


Employers alone can’t foot the $7 billion bill for unemployment insurance


Beacon Hill should follow other states and devote federal COVID-19 relief funds to bring down the debt from the cost of layoffs from the pandemic.

As published in the August 2, 2021 Boston Globe by Jon B. Hurst, RAM President

Massachusetts employers were recently handed their revised unemployment insurance tax bills for 2021. These lower bills are the result of new legislation that has been marketed as a fix for the unemployment insurance crisis. It authorizes the state to borrow $7 billion to shore up what would have been an insolvent unemployment insurance fund to pay back federal loans and interest on those loans. For many businesses, their revised tax bills dropped dramatically from what was first sent to them in April. The catch? Employers must pay it back. While the reduction in payments is welcome, employers have been handed an unprecedented tax increase for the $7 billion COVID-19 unemployment tab, which is now being amortized over 20 years rather than just two years.

Learn more about RAM’s proposal for relief, click here.  


MA DPH Issues New Mask Advisory

Effective July 30th, the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) has issued a new mask advisory in light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance. Fully vaccinated individuals are advised to wear a mask or face covering when indoors outside of your home if you have a weakened immune system, are at increased risk for COVID-19 or if someone in your household is at increased risk or unvaccinated. Masks are still mandatory for all individuals on public and private transportation systems, in healthcare facilities and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations, such as congregate care settings.  For more information regarding the new advisory please click here 


FY22 State Budget Finalized, Legislature Hits August Recess with More to Come on Sports Betting, ARPA Funding 

The unofficial summer recess has begun at the State House as the House and Senate concluded formal business last week.  Over two days of debate, the Legislature took up a series of proposed amendments and budget override votes on a number of line item and policy decisions where they disagreed with Gov. Charlie Baker’s decisions.  The final FY22 state budget has a price tag of roughly $48 billion.  RAM was pleased that the Legislature did not ultimately include in the final budget plan an earlier proposal to allow the use of debit cards to purchase lottery products.  The final budget is here.
With decisions regarding this fiscal year behind them, the Legislature in September will turn its attention toward crafting a plan to allocate the $4.8 billion in federal relief funds that are currently sitting in a COVID-19 relief fund, subject to legislative appropriation.  A series of public hearings will continue into the fall to solicit input on how best the state should utilize the federal funding, received after passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.  RAM continues to coordinate with others in the employer community around efforts to direct some portion of that funding toward helping to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
Another high-profile issue that will garner additional attention this fall is the proposed legalization of sports betting in the Commonwealth.  In mid-July, the House voted 156-3 in approving a bill to legalize sports betting on both college and professional sports.  The Senate may take up the debate in the fall, where the outcome is not certain, as some in the Senate have balked at authorizing betting on college sports.  Since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2018 paved the way for state legalization, some thirty states, including Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York, have legalized sports gambling.  


Adjusted 2021 UI and COVID-19 Recovery Assessment Rates

Adjusted 2021 Unemployment Insurance and new COVID-19 Recovery Assessment Rates are now available online from the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).  RAM members are strongly urged to visit their UI Online Account to review their updated rate notice which includes recalculated Q1 and Q2 contributions and a new COVID-19 Recovery Assessment.  More information regarding these changes including how to access your rate notice, recommendations and deadlines for future filings and payments, and explanation of the new assessment may be found on the DUA website
While the DUA guidance materials describe the COVID-19 Recovery Assessment as being part of the Commonwealth’s plan to manageably spread over time the $7 billion cost of COVID-related UI claims, it does not explicitly notify employers that this quarterly charge will remain on their bills for the next 20 years.  Members concerned about the impact of this unprecedented tax increase on their business are advised to contact their elected officials in the Legislature to request that a portion of the recently received ARPA funds be used to lessen this tax burden on employers.


The Sales Tax Holiday – August 14 & 15, 2021

The Sales Tax Holiday (STH) weekend is set for August 14 and 15.  The rules remain the same, but all members are still encouraged to review the governing regulation and FAQ’s from the MA Department of Revenue (DOR):
Sales Tax Holiday Regulation:  830 CMR 64H.1.8: Sales Tax Holiday  



RAM Fixed Rate Electricity Supply Program

RAM will once again be partnering with electricity broker Freedom Energy Logistics (FEL) and electricity supplier First Point Power (FPP) to offer RAM members fixed rate electricity supply pricing.  Members should expect to receive a formal offer sheet and agreement detailing the terms and conditions of the program in the coming weeks as we are currently working to secure a final rate for your consideration.  As in years past, the offered rate will only remain available for the limited time of one week, so interested members should be on the lookout for the forthcoming offering and prepared to respond in a timely manner to ensure enrollment at the available rate.  For members currently participating in the program, this new offer is designed to coincide with the expiration of your current contract with FPP.  For more information or questions please contact RAM General Counsel, Ryan Kearney via email at [email protected].