The Baker-Polito administration announced yesterday that it is starting distribution of the first round of $500 payments for low-income workers under the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay Program.

The payments will be mailed to approximately 500,000 people over the next week, officials said.

Municipal employees who meet the income qualifications are among those eligible for this first premium pay program of its type in the nation, which was created by the state’s $4 billion COVID recovery law enacted last December.

Massachusetts residents will be eligible for first-round payments if, based on filed 2020 Massachusetts tax returns, their income from employment was at least $12,750 — the equivalent to working 20 hours per week for 50 weeks at minimum wage as of 2020 — and their total income put them below 300% of the federal poverty level.

Individuals who received unemployment compensation in 2020 will not be eligible for the first round of payments, nor will Commonwealth executive branch employees who received or will receive a one-time payment from the state as their employer.

Eligible individuals will receive the payment in the form of a check mailed to them.

The state has created an informational webpage about the program, including income eligibility by family size and FAQs.

The payments represent the first round of a $460 million program established by the state’s COVID recovery law, using a portion of the state’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. The administration announced its plans for the program last month.

The legislation creating the Premium Pay program also allocated $40 million to fund previous agreements with state employee unions.

A second round of premium pay payments will be made using information from 2021 tax returns.

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