SECTION 1. Section 188 of chapter 149 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following subsections:-
(f) The Division of Unemployment Assistance and the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy may waive or mitigate an employer’s Fair Share Contributions, Free Rider Surcharges, fines, interest, and related fees.
(g) The Division of Health Care Finance and Policy shall create and implement a hardship appeal and waiver process for employers for the Fair Share Contribution (“FSC”) requirement and the Division of Unemployment Assistance may waive or reduce an employer’s fair share contributions, fines, interest, or related fees. Pending an appeal decision, the Division of Unemployment Assistance shall not continue to accrue or collect interest, penalties or fees on the Fair Share Contribution.
(h) The Division of Health Care Finance and Policy shall create and implement a hardship appeal and waiver process for employers for the Free Rider Surcharge. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, DUA and DHCFP will post downloadable versions of the FSC and Free Rider Surcharge hardship and waiver processes and relevant forms on their websites in an easy to find place and shall make available hardcopies of the instructions and forms. These forms shall be sent by DUA and DHCFP to all employers that are past due on payments regarding the Fair Share Contributions or Free Rider Surcharge.
(i) The FSC and Free Rider Surcharge appeals and waiver processes shall also take the following into consideration when determining when to waive or mitigate any fair share contribution or Free Rider Surcharge moneys owed by employers:
(1) If the employer is experiencing hardship such as but not limited to eviction, utility shut off, a medical emergency, death in their immediate family, a sickness or a short term disability that prevents the employer from working or running their business.
(2) If the employer’s business has experienced a major disaster either natural or manmade such as but not limited to a fire, flooding, major wind damage, major theft, or the long term loss of electricity, water, or heat due to storms or other such causes.
(3) If the employer’s business is a nonprofit organization that has a valid IRS letter of determination, the Division of Unemployment Assistance and the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy shall determine and acknowledge if any of moneys held by the business are bound by legal contractual obligations and therefore prohibits the employer from using said moneys to pay their assessed fines, interest, and related fees for the FSC and the Free Rider Surcharge.
(4) If the employer made a good faith effort to comply with Chapter 149: Section 188 during the first year of the implementation of Chapter 58 or during their first year of business, whichever occurred last.
(j) If an employer is found liable for the Fair Share Contribution and/or the Free Rider Surcharge and if the employer relied on a paid/contracted outside third party’s error, the third party will be entirely responsible for the said financial obligations.
(k) DUA or any entity of the Commonwealth shall not take any funds out of an employer’s bank account if the employer has filed a FSC appeal, hardship appeal/waiver or is in the process of mediation and is awaiting a decision.
(l) The Division of Unemployment Assistance’s help center staff shall not request identifying information from an employer that is seeking assistance from the Division of Unemployment Assistance helpline nor shall the staff share customer information with the audit department staff. No information recorded by the helpline may be used in an audit proceeding or be used to initiate an audit.
(m) For the purposes of Chapter 149: Section 188, an offer of insurance shall mean that the company has a group health insurance plan that is active or has made an offer of a group health insurance plan that can be put in place on the first day of the month that an eligible employee requests it. The offer of health insurance must be from an insurance carrier that is licensed by DOI to conduct business in the Commonwealth. All offers of group health insurance must have the date of the when request was made and the date or dates the plan can be activated.
(n) The Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, and the Division of Unemployment Assistance shall hold joint quarterly meetings with the small businesses and small nonprofit advocates. The meetings times and places must be posted on their websites at least two weeks prior to the meeting.
(o) An employer aggrieved by a determination of the Director with respect to its liability for the fair share employer contribution or with respect to the amount it must pay may appeal such determination within 60 days and in the form and manner as specified by the Director.
(p) Upon completion of a hearing on an appeal with respect to an employer’s liability for the fair share employer contribution or to the amount it must pay, the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy shall render a written decision within 90 days for an employer with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees and within 30 days for an employer with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.
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