Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise, we collectively grieve as a society for those we've lost. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost someone to this insidious virus, including our U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and now at least five of my colleagues in the MA House of Representatives.
While our hearts are heavy with sadness, simultaneously, they're also filled with gratitude for our health care professionals and first responders on the front lines, and to all who are working to ensure we have access to food and other essentials.
Please continue to rely on trusted sources and practice physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. As we continue to administer more tests around the city and the commonwealth, I encourage you to keep the faith and remember people can and do recover. For instance, our own Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel is back to work after recovering from the virus.
Finally, as the Governor said on Saturday, any decision made about reopening businesses will first require a drop in people being hospitalized for the disease and "some evidence that we’re over the hump" with respect to the surge, and secondly, that we have rules for engagement and reopening in place, which we’ll talk more about next week.
To those who celebrate, have a blessed Ramadan.
State Representative, 11th Suffolk
P.S. Help support contact tracing efforts and answer calls with 833 or 857 area codes from the MA COVIDTeam.
To read the Commonwealth’s Command Center Daily Updates: www.replizmalia.org
How to Help Out
If you're healthy and up to it, please consider donating blood. Appointments are required and you can find the nearest drive here. Additionally, your local knowledge, suggestions of sites, and potential partners are crucial to meeting the needs of our neighbors who need blood and blood products. To schedule a new blood drive contact Bill Forsyth at 617-699-3808 or at email William.Forsyth@redcross.org.
Need help but don't know where to start? For all the immediate resources in your area: helpsteps.com
4/20 - Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application portal became live (10 days ahead of schedule)
This federal unemployment program (under the CARES Act) is for individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others who would not ordinarily qualify for unemployment benefits. *If you didn’t make (via W2) $5,100 in the last 15 weeks, you should apply.*
Applicants will need to provide the following information:
Your social security number
If you are not a citizen of the United States, your A Number (USCIS Number)
Your residential address
Your mailing address (if different from residential address)
Your telephone number
Your email address
Your birth date
Your wage records for 2019, which includes:
The social security number(s) and date(s) of birth for your dependent child(ren)
If you want to use direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers
For more information on eligibility, please view the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Guide.
The program will provide up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits. Once claims are filed, processed, and individuals are deemed eligible, benefits will be paid retroactively beginning February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19, whichever date is later. The last week this benefit is payable is the week ending December 26, 2020.
* People traditionally ineligible for unemployment benefits may be self-employed, gig workers, or independent contractors. Other examples include earning less than $5100 in the last year, or having no right to regular unemployment, either because you were denied, or you worked for a religious organization.
** This group may qualify for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation at a later date (in a couple of weeks once the DUA receives federal guidance to be able to set it up). That’s the 13 week extension for people who were previously collecting unemployment but have used up all of their benefits, or whose benefit year ended after July 1, 2019. For more information visit mass.gov/dua
Filing for UI benefits by phone is based on the last digit of your Social Security Number.
0,1 file on Monday | 2,3 file on Tuesday | 4,5,6 file on Wednesday | 7,8,9 file on Thursday | Any digit file on Friday
*NOTE*: If you accidentally applied for regular UI and you haven't been denied yet, the DUA is working hard to quickly process denials to clear the path for pending PUA applications to become successful.
4/21 - The Governor announced all schools in MA are closed for the balance of the school year, and non-emergency child care centers will remain closed through June 29, 2020. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will issue guidelines for schools to support remote learning efforts throughout the school year, including expanded STEM learning.
4/21 - The MA Department of Higher Education is deferring scheduled repayments for its No-Interest Loan Program for a duration of four months to support relief efforts during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
4/21 - The US Department of Agriculture approved MA to operate Pandemic EBT (P-EBT). This additional food assistance will provide much needed relief for the approximately 500,000 Massachusetts students who have lost access to free or reduced-price meals during school closures.
4/22 - The Baker Administration announced expanded access to high-speed internet for unserved cities and towns throughout MA that do not yet have a completed last-mile broadband network. These communities will get a temporary 250 megabit per second wireless hotspot, allowing increased broadband access for residents, families, and students impacted by COVID-19.
4/22 - The Baker Administration announced the Community Health Care Center COVID-19 Testing initiative in partnership with Quest Diagnostics and Mass League of Community Health Centers. Community health centers in areas of high need with the ability to increase testing capacities will receive test kids from Quest. These will increase testing capacity for community health facilities located in Boston, Lowell, Quincy, Fall River, Provincetown, and Worcester.
4/22 - The MA Department of Early Education and Care, in partnership with the WGBH Educational Foundation, has created a media-rich website of educational resources to help support adults who teach, nurture, and care for children from birth to age five. These resources were developed by a team of early childhood experts, educators, and parents and they are available in both Spanish and English.
4/23 - If you need treatment for issues other than COVID-19, such as cancer, heart, kidney conditions, and other illnesses, healthcare professionals are urging you to continue to seek care.
4/23 - The Trial Courts have adapted their policies and practices to protect court staff and the public while maintaining access to justice for emergency situations. Some steps taken include: systems for judges and clerks to remotely hear emergency cases and matters, issuing Standing Orders establishing operation protocols, establish a help line for general inquiries by the public, and developing a robust Resource Guide for those struggled with substance use disorder or mental health issues.
*NOTE*: The public can call to ask general questions about their civil and criminal cases and help them navigate the court system while the court system remains closed to the public except for emergency matters. The Help Line will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and can be reached by calling 833-91COURT.
4/24 - The COVID-19 Command Center has a web page with guidance for prioritizing and optimizing use of Personal Protective Equipment. The page includes guidance on use of N95 and KN95 masks from both the Department of Public Health and MEMA.
4/24 - The state filed two waiver requests with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These waivers would expand Medicare telehealth coverage to include services provided by phone and video, extend retroactive coverage for those who qualify for MassHealth to allow them to be covered up to 90 days before submitting their application, provide flexibility for federal provider payment limits, and ease provider requirements that could result in unnecessary administrative burdens or barriers to care.
4/24 - The MBTA is opening up the RIDE services to personal care attendants. Users of the RIDE will be able to book these trips for their PCAs as capacity allows. Those interested in booking rides for their PCAs can call the Access Center at (844) 427-7433.
4/24 - MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Riley sent out updated guidance on remote learning and the length of the school year to school districts. Districts that continued remote learning through April vacation will finish school on the 181st day, and schools that kept April vacation will finish school on the 185th day.
4/25 - Governor stated May 4, the date at which the stay at home advisory and mandatory closure of non-essential businesses is set to lift, is not the key metric for determining when the state will lift its emergency restrictions, and that there will be more information on this next week.
On Monday 4/20, Governor Baker signed into law a temporary moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
Summary of major points:
A moratorium on all stages of the eviction and foreclosure processes for 120 days from the enactment of the legislation or 45 days after the State of Emergency has been lifted, whichever period of time is shorter. Prohibits all non-essential evictions for residential properties and small businesses.
Prohibits residential landlords from terminating tenancy and sending a notice to quit.
Halts landlords from issuing late fees and reports to credit agencies for nonpayment of rent, provided that a tenant offers notice and documentation to the landlord within 30 days of the missed rent payment that the non-payment was related to a financial impact from COVID-19.
Allows for video or telephone conferencing during the State of Emergency for reverse mortgage loans in lieu of in-person counseling until the State of Emergency order is lifted.
Evictions may proceed during the moratorium for actions that involve allegations of criminal activity or lease violations that are detrimental to public health or public safety.
Requires mortgage lenders to grant a forbearance of up to 180-days on required mortgage payments if homeowner submits request demonstrating financial hardship as result of COVID-19.
Allows landlords to use a tenant’s last month rent for expenses like mortgages payments and property maintenance, while protecting tenant rights regarding rent paid in advance.
For small business and nonprofit guidance relative to this new law, read The Coalition's analysis here: https://www.covidreliefcoalition.com/en/sources-of-relief
Bills on Governor Desk
H.4503 strengthening the local and regional public health system. The bill would direct the Department of Public Health to "develop a set of minimum standards for foundational public health services for the commonwealth," and establish a "state action for public health excellence program" that would encourage local boards of health to adopt certain practices. The state would then provide funding to local boards through a competitive grant program.
S.2645 providing for virtual notarization to address challenges related to COVID-19. The legislation gives notaries public the power to conduct certain business by video conference. Notaries in Massachusetts would be permitted to perform "an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act" through real-time videoconference rather than an in-person transaction for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. The principals and notaries involved in the transactions must be located in Massachusetts, and principals must also provide evidence to confirm their identities.
Passed House, and Heading to the Senate
On Tuesday 4/21, the MA House of Representatives passed legislation that would require long-term care and housing facilities to report and track COVID-19 positive cases and deaths to public health officials. On Thursday 4/23, the House passed two pieces of legislation to address the disparate effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency on underserved communities and communities of color. The first bill establishes a task force to study and make policy recommendations to address current disparities in the health care system for underserved or underrepresented cultural, ethnic, and linguistic populations as well as people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second bill requires DPH to collect and report daily COVID-19 testing, testing results, hospitalizations, mortalities, and related demographic information including but not limited to race, gender, and ethnicity. The data collection component both goes further than existing collection measures and ensures that the standards are enshrined in statute. The new information will help to inform policy development for those communities which are underserved during the health emergency and anticipate which communities need additional support.
Passed Senate, and Heading to the House
S.2647 providing assistance to vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 emergency. The bill would ban the Department of Transitional Assistance from denying family or individual assistance under the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) programs because "countable resources" exceed allowable limits.