Legislative Update: Week of April 20, 2020

Apr 20, 2020


On Monday, it was announced that Massachusetts had joined a coalition of Northeastern states – Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – to coordinate the reopening of the economy. To begin a “soft opening,” Governor Baker outlined several milestones that would first need to be hit – including moving past the peak of outbreak, and significantly reducing the spread. Massachusetts, along with the other states, will work with health and economic development experts and their chiefs of staff to build a framework to gradually relax states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread.

Also last week, President Trump outlined his guidance to reopen America, outlining recommendations for state governors. Under this guidance, once a state sees a 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases the state can begin to reopen its economy in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Reopen restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and places of worship as long as each follows social distancing guidelines. Businesses should still encourage employees to work from home and vulnerable populations should remain at home.
  • Phase 2: Once states have had a decrease in cases for one month and there are no signs of rebound, they can begin to reopen schools and daycares and bring back nonessential travel. During this phase, businesses can begin to relax distancing measures.
  • Phase 3: Once states see a decrease in cases for six weeks, they can reopen all of the above and residents can begin to visit nursing homes and hospitals again. Only senior citizens and particularly vulnerable populations should continue to practice social distancing.

The IRS issued new guidance that allows small biotechs to get payroll tax deferrals. Under this guidance employers who have received a PPP loan, but whose loan has not yet been forgiven, may defer deposit and payment of the employer’s share of social security taxes that they otherwise would have to pay beginning on March 27, 2020, through the date the lender issues a decision to forgive the loan, without incurring penalties. For more information on the CARES Act, FDA guidance, donating supplies and PPE, ways to give back to the community, and current grant opportunities, visit MassBio’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

Following the roll out of the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it was announced last week that all $349 billion directed to the program had been depleted. Current plans to replenish the fund are being discussed and a vote on the measure may be taken up this week.


Over the weekend, Governor Baker named his chief of staff Kristen Lepore, Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy and Health and Human Services Undersecretary Lauren Peters to the multi-state coalition that will work to coordinate a regional approach to reopening each state’s economy. Additionally, on Monday Governor Baker signed a housing security bill to hold evictions and foreclosures until after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

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