Dear Friends and Neighbors:
This Memorial Day holiday weekend, we honor and remember our veterans who we lost in service and their families. We also celebrate the festival of Eid al-Fitr, as the fasting month of Ramadan comes to an end. As the Governor reminded us on Friday, please be careful and respect the virus.
Do not be afraid to ask for help or to offer help -- we're all in this together.
MA State Representative, 11th Suffolk
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On Sunday evening 5/24, buildings, bridges, flags and parks will be illuminated in gold to honor Gold Star Families. The Department of Veterans’ Services partnered with MassDOT, building managers, and Veteran service organizations across the state to invite communities to light up prominent structures on the eve of Memorial Day. A list of participating locations can be found here.
On Monday 5/25, The Virtual Memorial Day Ceremony program will stream on mass.gov/MemorialDay and on participating TV stations and digital channels with speakers and musical performers from across the Commonwealth; remarks by Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, and legislative leaders; and a special “Tribute to the Fallen” by the Massachusetts National Guard.
On 5/18, the state’s Reopening Advisory Board sent a report to the Governor describing the state's Four-Phase plan to re-open our economy. This plan organizes the re-opening of various sectors of industry into four phases, each lasting at least three weeks. If public health data trends are negative, certain industries, regions, or the entire state may return to an earlier phase of the reopening. Any currently open or re-opening business must comply with industry-specific mandatory safety standards (if applicable) and have until 5/25 to do so.
Reopening Update - Phase 1: Start
We are currently in Phase 1. The first step of Phase 1 allows construction, manufacturing, and places of worship to reopen under sector-specific guidance that details necessary safety measures.
The second step of Phase 1 will begin on Monday 5/25 and will allow lab space, office space, limited personal services, and retail to reopen in the coming weeks. The personal services that will be permitted to reopen are hair salons and barbershops, car washes, and pet grooming services.
Remember, the state's phased-in reopening plan is merely a roadmap. As new information about the COVID-19 pandemic becomes available, we may need to adjust course accordingly. Mass.gov/reopening will continue to serve as the centralized webpage for all this information.
We All Need Help Sometimes
Lots of people are feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed right now.
Talk to someone who can help. Call ‘211’ or visit www.mass211.org, www.frcma.org, or https://massachusetts.networkofcare.org/mh/ for resources regarding parent/family support, clothing/household items, physical health, crisis lines/helplines, food/meals, mental health, substance abuse treatment, housing/utilities or domestic violence situations.
Housing Rental Assistance
Metro Housing announced the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) application process is now simpler and faster.
Applicants can now securely upload required documents to the user-friendly online form (rather than mailing them, sending them as email attachments, or dropping them off at Metro Housing’s office). You'll receive an immediate email confirmation when your completed application is received.
The process to apply for RAFT, which allows eligible households and individuals to apply for financial assistance (up to $4,000 per 12 month period) that can be used for rent arrears, utility arrears, and other expenses, is now fully electronic.
This rent relief program is now accepting applications through a user-friendly online form, easily accessible on all types of devices.
RAFT Policy Changes During COVID-19
The state's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) made some policy changes to the RAFT program to ensure funding is issued quickly and is responsive to the unique and evolving needs of this time.
Households who have experienced a loss of income, or who can otherwise prove an inability to pay future housing costs, can apply for help with rent or mortgage payments BEFORE they fall behind.
A court summons or foreclosure notice is not longer needed for households to apply for help with rent or mortgage arrears.
A shutoff notice is no longer needed for a household to apply for help with utilities.
A RAFT screen score, which indicates a household's risk factors for homelessness, is automatically waived.
Regional administering agencies will be flexible with documentation requirements, including waiving documentation that cannot be produced due to COVID-19 and accepting self-statements in lieu of third-party documentation.
Federal CARES Act economic impact payments and $600 weekly additional unemployment payments will be excluded from applicants' gross income.
On Monday 5/25 the unemployment assistance telecenter will be closed in observance of Memorial Day. They'll resume normal hours of operation on Tuesday 5/26. Please be advised that payments may be delayed since banks are also closed on Monday.
Beginning 5/21, UI claimants, who are eligible for extended benefits under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), will be able to claim through the UI Online system.
PEUC provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits to an individual who has exhausted all rights to any regular unemployment compensation and who meets other eligibility requirements of the CARES Act. Claimants may be eligible for these federal benefits now available through UI Online.
Having Issues Applying
If you continue to struggle to secure a successful unemployment claim or call back, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
Last 4 SSN:
Returning To Work Guidance
The Department of Unemployment Assistance posted information on returning to work as it relates to unemployment insurance. You can find guidance for workers here and for employers here.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance continues to offer virtual town halls that provide information on how to apply for unemployment assistance.
Health Insurance - Extended Enrollment Period Through 6/23/20
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, an extended enrollment period is available now through June 23, 2020 for qualified Massachusetts residents who are uninsured (without needing a qualifying life event).
If you do not have health insurance, or if you have health insurance that was bought somewhere other than the Health Connector, now is a good time to look at options to see if you can find a more affordable plan. May 23, 2020 was the deadline to select and pay for health insurance coverage through the Health Connector for coverage effective June 1, 2020. Any enrollment after May 23, 2020 will result in coverage effective July 1, 2020.
The bulletin providing more information on this extension can be found here
Virtual District Office Hours Pilot will continue per our usual office hours schedule: on the 2nd and 3rd Fridays of each month from 9-10:30 AM. If you live in the 11th Suffolk district (check here: wheredoivotema.com), sign up for a 15 min slot on either 6/12 or 6/19.
The IRS established a special phone line for taxpayers with questions about their Economic Impact Payments. The phone number to call is 800-919-9835.
On 5/21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced they'll allow MA to participate in a pilot program that will allow households that receive SNAP benefits to buy groceries online with their electronic benefit transfer cards.
On 5/22, our congressional delegation announced that MA public housing authorities will receive nearly $4.9 million in vouchers throu