Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this finds you well and staying healthy in body, mind and spirit.
Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and with those infected by the virus. The days ahead are going to be difficult. Many of us will lose someone we know or love to this virus. It's important to recognize the collective grief we presently feel, with awareness or not, and will continue to experience as the pandemic evolves in our city and commonwealth. While we must remain physically distant, we can stay in regular contact with those we love and with whom we typically share our days.
Thankfully, federal stimulus dollars are on the way to infuse our state governments and municipalities with funding for critical response services and programs. In the coming days and weeks, once the state receives the guidance it needs from the federal government, we'll start to see more of the federally-funded, state administered resources become available.
During this unprecedented time, please know my office is here to help direct you to accurate information and resources. You can reach me and my office at email@example.com or call 617-722-2380.
Thank you for doing your part by continuing to stay home (if you're a non-essential worker) and by practicing strict personal hygiene and physical distancing. I will continue to be in touch with information as I receive it. We are all in this together.
TOPLINE UPDATES (as of 4/1/20)
On 3/31, the Governor extended his Essential Services Order until 5/4. This means non-essential businesses must remain closed until this date. This includes an extension on the limit on social gatherings over 10. The stay at home advisory issued by Governor Baker last week will remain in effect. The essential services list now provides more clarity around the supply chain and other essential services, adds health care providers like chiropractors and optometrists, and expands types of workers that provide disinfectant and sanitation services. Also, as of 3/31 hotels and motels can only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, and cannot be booked for travel and leisure. For more, see Order and Essential Services FAQs
Applying has been frustrating for many. For what it's worth, we're in much better shape than most states. Last year, we invested in moving our system onto the cloud and so luckily it hasn't crashed. Additionally, the Administration increased the staff capacity from 50 to 500 employees who are working hard to process applications.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will continue to hold daily virtual town hall meetings Tues-Fri to walk filers through a step-by-step process that will result in a successful unemployment claim and to take questions from claimants.
To the folks who will become eligible for unemployment under the new federal CARES Act, please do not try to apply for unemployment yet. The state is awaiting federal guidance regarding implementation requirements. As soon as they have the system in place and running, you'll know it. In the meantime, become familiar with the unemployment system requirements, so that once you're approved, you know what's expected of you to continue receiving the benefits.
Thanks to our U.S. Senators Warren and Markey for sharing the Small Business Owner's Guide to the CARES Act (Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship). The US Chamber of Commerce also has a wonderful guide and checklist.
The Boston Main Street's Foundation established a $100K COVID-19 Response Fund, which will distribute $1K grants to individual businesses based on specific criteria (i.e. businesses located within a Boston Main Streets district with 10 or fewer employees showing financial need - preference given to those with 5 or fewer employees; businesses based in face-to-face/in person contact like salons, barber shops, retailers with little or no online sales; sole proprietors encouraged to apply; no reporting requirements; businesses with an immigrant tax ID number are eligible).
The City of Boston's Office of Economic Development is offering Small Business Call-In Office Hours on Friday, April 3 at between 9-11am or 2-4pm. To join, dial-in at +1 661-543-0141, PIN: 116 952 328#.
The MA Cultural Council plans to launch the COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals to help people who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. I'm hopeful many of our local artists and folks who work in the creative economy will apply and benefit from the forthcoming $1k grants.
MassHealth: You will not lose your MassHealth coverage during the COVID-19 national emergency
If you have received a notice in the mail that your coverage is ending on or after March 18, your coverage is protected and will not end during the national emergency. You do not need to send in any additional paperwork to keep your coverage. Report any change of circumstance, including change in income, to MassHealth as soon as possible by calling the Customer Service Center at (800) 841-2900; TTY: (800) 497-4648. You may be newly eligible for MassHealth or eligible for a different benefit level. Read on for more FAQs for members and applicants.
MA Connector: To assist uninsured MA residents seeking health coverage, the Health Connector previously announced on 3/11 an extended, 45-day enrollment period through 4/25. The special enrollment period has now been extended an additional 30 days to 5/25/20.
COVID-19 Helpful District Resources
Congresswoman Pressley Response Updates
Suffolk District Attorney Rollins Resource Guide
City Councilor O'Malley District 6 Community Resource Page
The CARES Act
Finally, from our friends at NCSL, some of the initiatives in the federal CARES Act that will benefit the residents of MA include:
$150 Billion State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund: Creates a $150 billion State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund to provide states and localities resources to address the coronavirus pandemic. It is estimated that Massachusetts will receive approximately $2.673 billion.
$260 Billion in Expanded Unemployment Benefits: Includes numerous provisions to improve unemployment benefits including an additional $600 per week for the next four months, providing an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits, and expanding eligibility to include workers in the gig economy and self-employed workers.
Direct Cash Payments to Lower and Middle-Income Americans: Provides for a direct cash payment to lower-and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child, beginning to phase out at an annual income of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for a married couple.
More Than $375 Billion in Small Business Relief: Provides more than $375 billion in small business relief, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants.
Approximately $200 Billion for Hospitals, Health Care Workers, and Health Research: Provides an investment of about $200 billion in our hospitals, health systems, and health research, including expanding funding for the personal protective equipment desperately needed by our health care workers, including ventilators, n95 masks, gowns, gloves, etc.
More Than $100 Billion in Additional Emergency Appropriations, Including the Following:
Transit Agencies: Provides $25 billion to transit agencies, which have all seen a drastic drop in revenues as social distancing has been implemented. This funding is to be used to protect the jobs of the employees of the transit agencies, funding their paychecks during this public health emergency. Massachusetts will receive $1,044,023,423 under this program.
HUD Emergency Solution Grants: Provides $2 billion for HUD Emergency Solution Grants to states that will be distributed by formula. These grants are designed to address the impact of the coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and to support additional homeless assistance, prevention, and eviction prevention assistance. Of this $2 billion, Massachusetts will receive $60.8 Million.
Child Care and Development Block Grant: Supports child care and early education by providing $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Massachusetts will receive $45.3 Million under this emergency appropriation.
1.3 Billion in Direct Payments to Community Health Centers: $1.3 billion will be available to pay for costs of coronavirus-related care and for lost revenue.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Provides $900 million to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. Massachusetts will receive $10,963,000 for this purpose during this public health emergency.
Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant Program: Provides $850 million for this program, giving additional support to state and local law enforcement agencies, thereby allowing them, for example, to obtain the personal protective equipment and other medical items they may need during this public health emergency. Massachusetts will receive $17,227,538 under this appropriation.
CDC Coronavirus State, Local and Tribal Grants Minimum Awards: Provides about $750 million in CDC State, Local, and . Tribal Grants Minimum Awards to help agencies cope with the public health emergency. The minimum award for Massachusetts is $12,944,000. In addition, states can apply for additional funds above their minimum award, based on their needs.
Election Assistance: Provides $400 million for Election Assistance Grants for states to help prepare for the 2020 elections. Coronavirus is already resulting in the postponement of some primaries and this funding can help states make voting safer for individuals. Funding can be used, for example, to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting, and expand online registration. Massachusetts will receive $8.3 Million for these purposes.