COVID-19 Weekend Update: Stay Home, Stop the Spread, Save Lives 4/4/20

Stay Home, Stop the Spread, Save Lives

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

A surge in cases in Massachusetts is expected during the month of April, and the next few weeks will be critical in terms of physical distancing and slowing the spread of the virus as much as possible. Residents are urged to stay home and avoid contact with others whenever they can, stay at least 6 feet from other people at all times, and wash their hands and clean and sanitize surfaces frequently. We need everyone to do their part so we can mitigate the impact of the expected surge. Please help communicate this critical message to friends, neighbors and your networks.

Per new data and CDC guidance issued Friday (4/3), based on how asymptomatic people can unknowingly spread the virus, it's a good idea to wear a nonmedical cloth mask when out on essential errands. If you have medical grade supplies, please donate them here (state) or here (city) to be used by our medical professionals. According to the NYT, a study published Friday (4/3) in the journal Nature found that flat surgical face masks significantly reduced the number of virus-carrying droplets that mask wearers released into the surrounding air.

Here are some easy ways to make a mask at home (no sewing required): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieI7HITRm3c#action=share

Helpful Links:

Mass.Gov/covid19

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency

Unemployment & COVID-19

Dept. Of Transitional Assistance Online Portal

Emergency Childcare Site

MBTA.com/covid19

COVID-19 Cost Eligibility and Tracking Guidance

Complete List of Emergency Orders & Guidance

These are really hard times. Please take care of yourself. We will get through this together.

Warmly,

Liz

liz.malia@mahouse.gov

www.replizmalia.org

PS - As of this morning (4/4), the MA bar exam scheduled for July will instead be held Sept. 30 & Oct. 1.

Unemployment

For those struggling to apply for unemployment, you're not alone. Please be patient and keep trying.

To save yourself time and headache, read through these FAQs to learn if your item is one that will require the Department of Unemployment Assistance staff to fix on their end. If so, fill out this contact form (only once) so that someone can call you back to fit the technical issue.

AS OF 3PM FRI (4/3) - The Department of Unemployment (DUA) has received limited guidance from the federal government regarding the CARES Act. Based on that guidance, DUA is moving swiftly to add an additional $600 to the weekly benefits received by traditional unemployment claimants, retroactive to March 29, 2020. DUA is also implementing the 13-week extension of benefits to UI claimants as quickly as possible. Additionally, the federal government provided guidance on merit staffing requirements that will allow DUA to continue to expand staffing quickly so that DUA can swiftly respond to questions and process claims. The federal government has advised states against implementing specific programming options providing financial assistance to the self-employed and those not traditionally covered under the regular unemployment program until guidance has been issued. DUA is urging the federal government to provide guidance on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance as quickly as possible so that we can help the self-employed, those who have exhausted eligibility under regular unemployment, and others eligible for the new program get the resources they need during these difficult times. Unfortunately, until more specific guidance is issued, those who would not traditionally qualify for unemployment insurance remain ineligible for benefits through the UI Online application system. However, once guidance is given payments under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be retroactive to January 27, 2020.

State Legislation and Budget

Recent Action

On Friday (4/3), the Governor signed into law a bill to provide necessary relief to municipalities, taxpayers, restaurants, and state authorities affected by the COVID-19 crisis and State of Emergency declaration. The legislation extends the state income tax filing deadline for individuals from April 15 to July 15, addresses disruptions in municipal tax collections and permitting, and allows licensed restaurants to sell certain alcoholic beverages (beer and wine) with food take-out and delivery orders.

On 4/2, the House passed two bills that now go to the Senate. The first bill seeks to establish a moratorium on most residential and commercial evictions for the duration of the State of Emergency and 30 days after it ends – providing economic relief and enabling people to remain safe. This package also includes several provisions to ease the burdens on tenants and homeowners while keeping intact emergency evictions due to criminal activities or that are a threat to public health.

The second bill would require the Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to push back the April 1 deadline outlined in the Student Opportunity Act for districts to submit their first 3-year plan to at least May 15, and requires the Commissioner to modify or waive MCAS requirements for the remainder of the academic year. It also allows for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to modify the “competency determination,” or graduation requirement, related to the MCAS test, and clarifies that any 12th grade student who has not met the graduation requirement will have additional opportunities to do so. The bill also provides regional school districts with spending flexibilities should they not be able to approve a budget.

Upcoming

VIRTUAL REVENUE HEARING 4/7 at 10AM: Ways and Means Committee chairs Rep. Michlewitz and Sen. Rodrigues and Administration and Finance Secretary Heffernan hold a "virtual roundtable" with economic exports to try to get a handle on what the coronavirus pandemic will mean for the state budget. Participants will be invited to join via video or audio call or in-person.

Going Forward

We've heard from many of you about a number of the recent legislative proposals filed in response to COVID-19. I thank you for reaching out on behalf of those for whom we have shared concerns. These are critical issues that require a coordinated decision making process across many levels of government, as well as across the state's legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Rest assured, many of these important notions proposed within are currently under consideration. Even if you don't see my name on a particular proposal, please know I'm working within the Joint Committee on Ways and Means to make sure our policy recommendations and actions fill the gaps and are informed by what people, especially our most vulnerable, need now and going forward over the next days, weeks, and months.

Rent Assistance (City of Boston)

The funds will help income-eligible tenants in the City of Boston who: do not have access to expanded unemployment benefits, or because of the nature of their jobs, the unemployment benefits they will receive represent a significant reduction in their actual income.

Applications to the Rental Relief Fund will be available on this website starting MONDAY, APRIL 6.

Small Business Relief

Financial Relief A Handbook for Small Business Owners (google doc)

Thanks to the City's Office of Economic Development team, this is a fabulous, up-to-date (working) breakdown of all the federal, state, city, and private & nonprofit funds available to small businesses right now. This FAQ is also helpful. Small Businesses can send questions to: smallbiz@boston.gov

The state's COVID-19 Resources and Guidance for Businesses website also has helpful breakdowns of each of these items:

  • Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program

  • SBA Express Bridge Loan Program

  • SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

  • SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

  • SBA Debt Relief

  • Emergency Order re: Essential Services and Assemblage Guidance

  • MEMA’s Emergency Operations Center’s Private Sector Hotline

  • Executive Office of Labor & Workforce Development Resources

  • Administrative Tax Relief Measures

SMALL BUSINESS UPDATE 4/8 at 9AM: Small Business Administration district director Bob Nelson and deputy district director Peter Kontakos give an overview of the CARES Act and SBA loan programs during a "virtual event" held by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The event is free to members and non-members, but registration is required. Please send questions ahead of time to: chamberprograms@bostonchamber.com

Immigrant Communities

Massachusetts Workers Emergency Relief Funds (google doc)

Compiled by Massachusetts Jobs with Justice for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers should apply for these funds regardless of immigration status. Please research, apply, and share. This is a work in progress! Please share this link: https://bit.ly/MassWorkerReliefFunds

If you find new funds, please let them know! And please reach out if you would like to volunteer to help workers, particularly ones who are not fluent in English or need help with technology: jwj@massjwj.net.

Youth Summer Jobs

The City's application for youth summer jobs is open and due TOMORROW (4/5) by 5pm!!! Apply here: youth.boston.gov

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