COVID-19 Evening Update 4/8/20

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this finds you well and treating yourself and others with patience and kindness.

As the Governor reminded us today, while we're still as a state on the "upward slope" with the worst yet to come, we all play a role to stop the spread of the virus and stay healthy. Remember, as you begin or continue to experience cabin fever, face coverings are important and not a substitute for physical distancing. People should follow US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice on face masks. They can include a cloth, scarf, or bandanna that covers a person’s mouth and nose, they should be washed regularly, and they shouldn’t be used on children under 2 or those who have trouble breathing.

As we anticipate federal stimulus dollars arriving in bank accounts soon, local, state and federal law enforcement is reminding us all to please be on guard for scammers seeking personal information as a precondition for federal aid. To be clear, the U.S. Government (i.e. the IRS, the SSA, etc.) is not sending emails or phone calls asking for personal information in exchange for federal aid. Look out for all the seniors in your life and let them know to be careful. If you received something you have a question about or you're concerned, you can call 3-1-1 or 2-1-1 or the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400 or visit: https://www.mass.gov/guides/resources-during-covid-19#-protect-yourself-from-scams-and-fraud-

Thank you for doing your part to keep us all safe, especially during these next few weeks.

Happy Passover,

Liz Malia

Take Action

Helpful Legal Resources

https://www.masslegalhelp.org/

https://www.masslegalservices.org/covid-19

State Updates

On Friday (4/3), the Administration announced the creation of the COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in MA. This initiative is a collaboration between the administration and Partners In Health, and is the first of its kind in the nation. The initiative will focus on tracing the contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients, and supporting individuals in quarantine, and builds on the efforts already underway from the Command Center to leverage public health college students to augment the contact tracing being done by local boards of health. Contact tracing through the CTC will support the ongoing efforts to expand bed capacity, increase personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and provide resources for health care providers and patients. Apply here

The Administration will infuse $800 million into the MA health care industry. This will help to support health care providers affected by and responding to COVID-19. It will include $400 million in resources to hospitals, more than $80 million in resources to nursing facilities, and more than $300 million in resources to other health care providers.

Additionally, so far these week, the Baker Administration:

  • Launched, in partnership with Eastern Bank, the MA COVID-19 Relief Fund will support those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Launched a Nursing Home Family Resource Line, a dedicated telephone line to connect family members of nursing home and rest home residents with the information and resources they need. The line is staffed from 9 AM – 5 PM, seven days a week. Staff will coordinate across state agencies to help callers find answers to their questions. Families and community members can call the line at 617-660-5399.

  • Issued guidance limiting the number of people allowed in grocery stores at one time will be limited to 40% of the store's capacity.

COVID-19 & Unemployment

https://www.masslegalservices.org/covid-19-and-ui

Applying for unemployment continues to be frustrating for many. The Mayor's of Economic Development has a very helpful FAQ for Job Seekers and Unemployment Insurance (google doc) If you've already done everything you've been asked to do, and you still can't seem to secure a successful application, please send an email to liz.malia@mahouse.gov

To submit an inquiry on your behalf, my office will need the following information:

INFO NEEDED

Full name: Address: Phone:

Email: Last 4 SSN: Last Employer: Claim ID: Details:

ASK:

Remember, 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 those 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.

Despite previous and current efforts, the state's unemployment application itself is only in English. Luckily, thanks to our friends at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton, and to my House colleague from Somerville, Christine Barber for sharing, we now have the PDF step-by-step instructions in Spanish. They're working on a Portuguese translation as well.

New Relief Fund

To help the small businesses that belong to their organizations, the MA LGBT Chamber of Commerce (MALGBTCC) and the Black Economic Council of MA (BECMA) teamed up to launch the Futures Fund, a $3 million COVID-19 relief fund funded and facilitated by Berkshire Bank. The bank set aside $3 million in available capital to create a direct credit line of $50,000 for businesses in need of financial support and flexibility while dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations said the fund will carry a 3% interest rate, with 3 months of no required payments and a 3-month extension possible after that period.

Early Education Updates - courtesy the House Education Committee Chair

Currently, there are over 500 emergency exempt providers approved by the MA Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) since March 23. The department is closely monitoring those providing services to ensure that no center operates at a high percentage of its capacity in order to protect the well-being of educators and children. The department's ability to create a framework to provide care to children of those deemed essential workers and others who may need access to temporary childcare as a last resort is dependent upon the public's understanding that this option should only be used as a last resort.

With the closure of childcare centers, there are many questions around continued payments for private pay childcare while providers are temporarily closed. The MA Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is not able to address this issue directly, as private pay childcare is arranged via a contract between the parents/guardians and the childcare providers. EEC has, however, been working directly with the Attorney General's office on this issue. The AGO created a FAQ, as well as guidance recognizing the hardship this can be on families at this time and urging "programs to work with families toward a fair and reasonable resolution," and an online complaint form for families to submit should they have concerns regarding childcare.

With the passage of the federal CARES Act, the Commonwealth expects to see approximately $44 million to address childcare issues related to this emergency. This funding is flexible, and as EEC has already budgeted for subsidies and parent fees, it has the ability to use the federal funds to address the economic impacts felt by both families and providers due to COVID-19. The department is working closely with the Legislature to find solutions to these unique challenges and to mitigate the negative impacts on the childcare industry and families across the Commonwealth.

In addition, EEC Commissioner Aigner-Treworgy and her staff are working diligently to partner with philanthropic entities to assist childcare providers in applying for small business loans. More information on these and other partnerships to assist families at this critical juncture should be available soon.

COVID-19 Legislative Response

As the days pass, this pandemic certainly illustrates the need and role for government at all levels. I appreciate the magnitude of this disaster and I know that many are frustrated, myself included, as we await federal guidance across many departments, so that the forthcoming federally-funded programs to be administered by the state can be established and launched by the state.

In addition, I continue to hear from many of you about a number of the state legislative proposals being filed in response to COVID-19. Thank you for reaching out on behalf of those for whom we have shared concerns. While this upcoming budget process will likely be more challenging than any other year to date, I too believe we must prioritize supporting people - it's the only way we'll all recover faster.

From a fiscal perspective, however, I find it important to remember right now that as the federal stimulus dollars begin to flow into the state, with likely a 4th federal stimulus package on the way, it is incumbent upon the state to closely evaluate and decide first where those federals dollars can and should be spent before we preemptively spend state dollars. To spend state dollars where we don't need to yet would not be prudent.

For information on the SNAP & Cash Assistance Benefits currently available pre-federal relief dollars, visit:

https://www.masslegalservices.org/DTA-COVID-19

State Budget Virtual Hearing

UPDATE - Due to technical difficulties, the virtual roundtable with economic experts that was scheduled to take place 4/7 at 10 AM will now take place NEXT TUESDAY instead.

City Updates

The Mayor and his incredible team continue to make and report out significant progress on their efforts to prepare our city. Unfortunately, but understandably, the 50th anniversary of our annual Pride celebrations won't happen until June 2021. This was a joint decision between the City of Boston and Boston Pride. Health and safety is the priority.

You can find more information by visiting Boston.gov/coronavirus, by calling the City’s 24-hour hotline at 3-1-1, or by texting BOSCOVID to 9-9-4-1-1 to receive text alerts on a regular basis. These alerts are available in 6 languages.

New measures in effect Monday, April 6 through Monday, May 4

  • Everyone should wear a face covering when outside of their home.

  • The Boston Public Health Commission issued an Advisory curfew recommending people stay inside between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

  • City Hall is only open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and you must call to make an appointment for services. Everyone entering the building will be subject to screening for COVID symptoms. City Hall will be closed this Friday, April 10, in observance of Good Friday.

  • Sports facilities at all City parks, including basketball, tennis, and street hockey courts, are closed.

This week, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is set to open, which will expand the city's medical capacity by an additional 1,000 beds specifically for COVID-19 patients including 500 for homeless individuals and 500 for general hospital overflow. It has 6 acute care suites; a physical therapy suite; 52 nurses stations and 48 bathroom facilities.The Center is being operated in a collaboration between the City, State, Partners HealthCare, Boston Health Care for the Homeless, and others. Partners is seeking healthcare providers, including: registered nurses, advanced practice providers, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists, and providers with experience in respiratory care. Providers who wish to work at the BCEC should go to partners.org/bostonhope.

On Monday (4/6), the Boston Resiliency Fund released $3 million to 29 organizations that provide essential services to front-line workers, health care providers, and families impacted by the public health emergency. To date the Fund has raised over $23.4 million from more than 3,000 donors.

Grants issued total:

  • $4.7 million to provide Boston's children, families, and seniors with access to food and other basic needs.

  • $3.7 million to expand the capacity of healthcare systems to serve the vulnerable and to provide childcare, food, and support for healthcare and front-line workers.

  • $2 million for Chromebooks for our students.

You can still donate or apply for funds at boston.gov/coronavirus

The City formed a Disease Containment Strike Team to protect our loved ones in nursing homes, assisted living, and other high-risk, group residences. The Team draws from the Boston Public Health Commission, Age Strong Commission, and Disabilities Commission, and it works closely with the State. If there are more than 2 cases identified at a facility, the Team will go in to slow the spread, mitigate the situation, and support staff in their response.The Team makes contact within 24 hours of learning of a positive case and works to implement strategies over the next 24 hours.

Based on feedback from our invaluable frontline health care workers, the City added transportation supports for healthcare workers. For the duration of the Emergency, if a healthcare worker gets a parking ticket, the City will waive the ticket upon appeal. All you have to do is send a copy of the ticket and your work ID to parking@boston.gov. This policy applies retroactively. The only exceptions are safety violations—such as parking in front of a hydrant, or in a handicapped space without a placard.

The Mayor ordered the City of Boston to extend the due date for property tax bills from May 1 until June 1 to give residents more flexibility. Any interest will be waived on late property tax and motor vehicle excise tax payments until June 30, if the bill was originally due after March 10, meaning any resident who is facing a late fine for not paying their excise bill on time will have a grace period with no late fees until June 30. The due date for filing residential and personal exemptions is extended from April 1 to June 1.

Cabin Fever & Staying Sane

To access the following resources, check out the state's webpage: Maintaining Emotional Health & Well-Being During the COVID-19 Outbreak: Resources and tips to help boost emotional health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Resources for reducing stress and healthy coping

  • Combating isolation and loneliness

  • Tips and activities for children

  • Stigma and discrimination prevention

  • Multilingual resources on COVID-19

  • Online and Telephone Peer Supports

  • News and social media accounts to follow

  • Mental Health Crisis Support

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