COVID-19 End of Week Update 6/21 + Step 2 of Phase II of Reopening, Court Decisions, Juneteenth, Pol

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Consistent with public health data and trends, Step Two of Phase II of Reopening Massachusetts is set to begin on Monday 6/22. For more details, read the Phase II Executive Order here.

In case you missed it on Friday 6/19, watch Boston Globe editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman interview Dr. Ibram X. Kendi about how to build an antiracist movement — and about his appointment to lead a new antiracism research center at Boston University, scheduled to open July 1.

Happy Father's Day,

Liz

Liz Malia, 11th Suffolk

State Representative

617-722-2380

liz.malia@mahouse.gov

Federal Updates

6/18 - The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Trump administration unlawfully ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This decision nullifies the rollback of the program and will potentially allow new applicants to apply for DACA.

6/16 - The Small Business Administration reopened the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and EIDL Advance program portals to all new applicants. Additional small businesses and nonprofits will now be able to apply for long-term, low-interest loans and emergency grants provided by the SBA.

6/15 - The Supreme Court ruled federal civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender workers. This means federal law will now protect employees from firing and adverse employment decisions made on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

6/15 - The Supreme Court also declined to take up petitions from ten challenges to state laws established to limit the availability and accessibility of some firearms. One of these cases was a challenge to a Massachusetts state law involving bans on certain semiautomatic firearms and high capacity magazines. This is one positive step toward ensuring common-sense gun safety across the country.

State Updates

6/19 - Governor Baker issued a proclamation declaring June 19, 2020 as “Juneteenth Independence Day” in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

6/19 - Governor Baker announced that step two of phase two of the Commonwealth's four-phase reopening plan will begin this Monday 6/22. Indoor table service at restaurants, close-contact personal services (with restrictions), retail dressing rooms (by appointment), and offices at 50% capacity will be allowed to reopen.

6/18 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.

6/18 - Sales, meals and room occupancy taxes for businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meal taxes or less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes last year will not be due until September. Those who wait to pay these taxes until then will not face any penalties or interest.

6/17 - The Registry of Motor Vehicles will exempt Massachusetts residents who renew their license or ID before 8/12 from the $25 fee to upgrade to a REAL ID next year. The RMV is not currently accepting appointments that are necessary to upgrade to a REAL ID. The federal government has pushed back the deadline for requiring a REAL ID to fly until Oct. 1, 2021.

6/16 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.

6/16 - The Department of Conservation and Recreation announced it opened agency-managed spray decks, playgrounds, and fitness areas for public use in accordance with safety standards issued by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

6/16 - Attorney General Maura Healey and 38 other attorneys general sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook to flag concerns that there are contact-tracing apps available on Android and Apple devices that fall short in protecting personal information and asked the CEOs to remove contact tracing apps not linked to government or health officials.

6/16 - The MA Association of Community Action, the Boston Tax Coalition and Code for America are piloting a virtual VITA program to provide free tax prep assistance online. The Red Cross of MA set up a Virtual Family Assistance Center that provides virtual programs, information, referrals and support services for those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19.

6/15 - Governor Baker announced there will be more than 50 pop-up COVID-19 testing sites available on Wednesday 6/17 and Thursday 6/18. Those who have recently participated in large gatherings were urged to get tested. Testing was free and open to everyone, including those who are not showing symptoms.

Legislative Updates

This Wednesday 6/24, the MA House meets in a full formal session to consider H4707, An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2020 to authorize certain COVID-19 spending in anticipation of federal reimbursement, a roughly $1 billion supplemental budget filed by Gov. Baker in May. Once passed, this spending bill will enable the Administration to seek money available from federal pools to cover COVID-related expenses.

6/19 - Governor Baker filed a $5.25 billion interim spending bill that approves funding expenses to cover the month of July at the same funding level that was approved for FY2020.

6/18 - I cosponsored An Act to make Juneteenth Independence Day a State Holiday filed in the House by Reps. Maria Robinson, Bud Williams, Mindy Domb and Chynah Tyler, and in the Senate by Sens. Brendan Crighton, Sonia Chang-Diaz and Jo Comerford. Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

I also signed onto A Resolve Establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, offered by Senator Collins and Representative Miranda, which would create a commission of experts to investigate and study race relations in Massachusetts, including but not limited to slavery and interactions with slave fueled-industries and institutionalized racism. The commission would also be charged to put forth legislative solutions, including ameliorative race-based policies and racial justice initiatives.

6/17 - Governor Baker introduced legislation that would create a licensing system for police and other law enforcement officers. This legislation would require officers to get certified every three years and would create a process for decertification that involves community input and immediately decertify officers that use a chokehold or excessive force. It would also create incentives for training programs. MA is one of four states without such a system.

Last week, I co-sponsored An Act to Save Black Lives by Transforming Public Safety. Filed by Representative Liz Miranda and Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem, the proposal takes important steps in the direction toward equity and justice.

The bill seeks to set new standards for police conduct, end dehumanizing police practices, add public accountability where none existed, and ensure robust oversight and implementation of lawful consequences for the breach of public trust. Additionally, it would prohibit the use of choke holds, eliminate no-knock warrants, and create an affirmative duty for any officer to intervene when they observe unnecessary force.

So far, these requirements have gained broad support as important minimum standards. Many additional reforms will be implemented by cities and at the federal level; this bill addresses important interventions at the state level, particularly around the use of force limits, standards and data collection, and reporting requirements.

Food Security Working Group

INDIVIDUALS: SNAP & WIC

Help get the food you need - 1 out of 9 people in Massachusetts receive SNAP benefits.
Apply for SNAP in 20 minutes or less or call Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 (M-F from 8am-7pm & Saturday from 10am-2pm.)

The WIC (Women, Infants, & Children Nutrition) program provides families with healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and other services for families.

Apply for WIC

TIPS:

Apply BEFORE you begin receiving unemployment.

As of 5/29, you can use your EBT card to order food online (via Walmart or Amazon, so far, delivery fees not covered). For your questions, read the FAQ.

PROGRAMS: Food Insecurity Grant Program & Healthy Incentives Program

(6/11 - $41M to address food security)

The goal of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program is to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to food, with a special focus on food that is produced locally and equitable access to food. The program also seeks to ensure that farmers, fisherman and other local food producers are better connected to a strong, resilient food system to help mitigate future food supply and distribution disruption.

Link to RFR: https://www.mass.gov/doc/fy21-food-security-grant-program-rfr/download

Eligible grantees include entities that are part of the Massachusetts local food system including production, processing and distribution, the emergency food distribution network, Buy Local, community and food organizations, school meal programming (including summer meal sponsors), urban farms and community gardens, non-profits, and organizations that provide business planning, technical assistance and information technology services. Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis through September 15, 2020.

Eligible proposals include, but are not limited to, projects seeking to:

  • Increase capacity for food direct delivery;

  • Increase capacity of food banks and food pantries;

  • Increase capacity of local food distribution partners;

  • Offer innovative solutions to enable those receiving SNAP and WIC benefits to receive food more easily;

  • ​​​​​​​Offer innovative solutions for urban farming and;

  • ​​​​​​​Help farms, retailers, fisheries and other food system businesses adapt to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to allow them to provide greater access to local food.

In addition to the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, the Administration also announced $5 million in new funding for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). To leverage this state funding, a Notice of Opportunity has been released to allow new agricultural vendors to apply to participate as HIP vendors.

Eligible vendors include farmers’ markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and community-supported agriculture farm share programs. Applicants will be evaluated on their ability to respond to the needs of communities and populations impacted by COVID-19, establish HIP access points in areas with limited existing HIP access points or other food access barriers, distribute food in ways that limit the transmission of the novel coronavirus while reaching vulnerable populations, and a demonstrated capacity and commitment to serve SNAP clients in culturally appropriate ways. Applications can be submitted through Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

Unemployment

The international/national fraud scheme caused many folks receiving benefits since March and April to suddenly and inexplicably get cut off or their account to become frozen. If you're not receiving the benefits you're due, please send me an email: liz.malia@mahouse.gov

Name, Address, Phone, Email, Claimant ID, Last 4 of SSN

Details (actions you've tried so far)

Ask

This week, my colleague Rep. Tram Nguyen of Andover, the first Vietnamese American woman to serve in the MA Legislature in her first term, led a joint letter to the Governor around the federal and state unemployment systems.

The letter addresses lots of the challenges I've heard from many of you about and submitted on your behalf over the last three months when trying to secure Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits or to communicate with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).

I'm grateful to Tram for tracking and compiling all the issues, for her keen legal eye, and for the opportunity to sign my name. Hopefully, our advocacy helps move the needle in the right direction.

District Updates

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will be hosting a virtual public meeting to discuss the Arborway Parkway Improvements Project.

THIS WED 6/24 @ 6:30 - 8 p.m. - Arborway Improvements Project - DCR Virtual Public Meeting

If you plan to participate, DCR encourages you to register in advance, which will support smooth facilitation of the meeting.

  • Participants may join the meeting using this link: bit.ly/Arborway6-24 or by calling this telephone number (631) 992-3221 for audio if necessary.

  • GoTo Webinar Meeting ID: 779-646-219.

  • The presentation made will be viewable after the public meeting on DCR’s website at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/arborway-parkways-improvement-project.

  • During the virtual meeting, slides introducing the project team, providing an overview of the design process, and outlining opportunities for public comment will be presented by DCR. The public may ask questions using the “chat” function during and after the presentations.

  • The public will be invited to submit comments on the project during and after the meeting, with a deadline for receipt by DCR of Friday, July 10, 2020. Comments may be submitted online at www.mass.gov/dcr/public-comment or by writing to Arborway Parkway Improvements c/o Howard Stein Hudson, 11 Beacon Street, Suite 1100, Boston, MA 02108.

  • Please note that public comments submitted to DCR may be posted on the DCR website in their entirety, and no information, including personal information, will be redacted. In addition, members of the public are also invited to note specfic concerns on an interactive online mapping tool at https://hsh.mysocialpinpoint.com/arborway

  • Seeking to improve safety along the Arborway for all user groups and improve access to open spaces such as the Arnold Arboretum and The Emerald Necklace, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has initiated the design phase of the Arborway Improvements Project.

  • If you have questions or concerns or would like to be added to an email list to receive DCR general or project- specific announcements, please email Mass.Parks@state.ma.us or call 617-626-4973.

City Updates

Please see below for updates from Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing, Thursday 6/18.

Statement on the Supreme Court decision on DACA:

  • This morning, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from ending the DACA program, which protects people brought to the United States as children by shielding them from deportation and letting them work.

  • Mayor Walsh said, “This is a good ruling for our city and country. Nearly 4,500 DACA recipients are in the Boston area. They are our neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Many are on the front lines as essential workers responding to COVID-19. Our city has embraced DACA recipients and supported efforts to expand DACA under President Obama. We signed onto an amicus brief that urged the Supreme Court to do the right thing. I am encouraged by today's decision, but this is a temporary solution. We need to pass the DREAM and Promise Act at the federal level, which will provide lasting immigration status to many people who have been part of our community and our country for decades.”

Case numbers:

  • As of today in Massachusetts: 106,442 cases and 7,770 deaths.

  • Also as of today in Boston: 13,261 cases, 689 deaths, and 8,952 recoveries.

Updates on testing:

  • The Mayor announced that the City has reached an important benchmark: the cumulative positive rate among people who have been tested for COVID-19 since the outbreak began is 19.6%. This is the first time it has fallen below 20%, which is a key recovery metric. The positive rate for last week was just 2.7%.

  • Last week, the City created a pop-up testing site in Roxbury, and invited anyone who has participated in large events or demonstrations to get tested. Nearly 1,300 people got tested, and they came back with just a 1% positive rate for the virus. The Mayor cautioned that the testing sites were open to anyone, so it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions about the impact of the protests. However, he remarked that the vast majority of people at recent demonstrations have been wearing masks, which has very likely contributed to the low positive rates. He also thanked the Boston Public Health Commision for handing out masks and sanitizer at the events.

  • The State is also supporting more testing this week for people who have been to large gatherings, including at Brookside Community Health Center in Jamaica Plain.

  • For information about testing sites in the City of Boston, visit boston.gov/covid19-testing. For information about testing sites available throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, visit mass.gov/covidtestmap.

Increasing the Boston Public Health Commission Budget:

  • The Mayor’s proposed budget for FY2021 adds $13 million to the Boston Public Health Commission, which brings the total City of Boston contribution to the BPHC budget to over $106 million. That increase in funding will support the ongoing battle against COVID, resources for people with substance use disorder, and the City’s continued work to address health inequities. This work will be bolstered by the City’s declaration that racism is a public health crisis.

Updates on summer programming and other City resources:

  • Massachusetts is in Phase 2, step 1 of its reopening plan. The Mayor stressed the importance of remaining vigilant to prevent new surges in cases, and discussed some of the updates to City programs that will support a healthy, safe, and equitable reopening.

  • The Boston Public Schools are moving forward with summer learning programs on a remote basis, and they will keep meal distribution sites, and meal deliveries, going through the summer. For more information, visit bostonpublicschools.org/summer.

  • The Boston Centers for Youth and Families have a range of virtual programs for young people ages 9-18. You can register at boston.gov/bcyf.

  • The Success Link program is still taking applications and placing teens in safe summer jobs.

  • The Boston Public Library is moving forward with a new program called BPL to Go. Starting on Monday, patrons will be able to order books and other items, using the library website, phone line, or a new iPhone app called BPL to Go. Residents can safely pick up the items or return them using bins outside the library. The program will launch at the Central Library in Copley Square, the Mattapan branch, the East Boston branch, the Codman Square branch in Dorchester, and the Jamaica Plain branch. It will then roll out at the other branches. You can find out more at bpl.org.

  • The Mayor discussed another program that highlights the role libraries play in the lives of Boston residents: The BPL’s Career Online High School allows adults to earn a high school diploma and a career certificate in one of 10 high-demand fields. It is entirely online, so it gives students flexibility while allowing them to remain safe and healthy. The first students graduated this month. The Mayor announced that the BPL is making 25 scholarships available to qualified applications. Visit BPL.org/COHS to learn more or to apply.

Updates on small business supports:

  • The Mayor remarked that supporting Boston’s diverse small business sector is a key strategy for an equitable recovery. He provided some updates on some of the City’s programs and resources.

  • So far, the City has made $13.5 million available to small businesses for financial relief and safe reopening needs.

  • The Small Business Relief Fund has distributed $5.9 million to over 1600 small businesses across every neighborhood in the city. More than 50% of those businesses are owned by people of color. They include restaurants, stores, hair and nail salons, gyms, childcare providers, home health aides, and more.

  • The City’s Reopen Boston Fund is supporting local businesses to secure personal protective equipment (PPE), partitions, cleaning supplies, and implement other safety measures. This week the City is distributing grants to 473 small businesses totalling $846,000. The fund is still accepting new applications.

  • The City also has a number of online guides and resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including a platform for PPE and cleaning supplies, and directories of open businesses and restaurants. There is also a new directory of Black and Brown owned businesses, to make it easier to support businesses owned by people of color and help increase equity in Boston’s economy. All of these resources are available at boston.gov/reopening.

  • The City is also advancing its plan to permanently increase the availability of liquor licenses, an important tool for restaurants to add revenue and expand their customer reach. The City Council passed the Mayor’s Home Rule Petition, which would bring 184 new liquor licenses to restaurants across Boston’s neighborhoods. Those include 15 set aside exclusively for businesses owned by people of color. The Mayor said that the City will be working with the State Legislature to move that forward. He also said he looks forward to seeing the Restaurant Relief bill move through the State Senate and get signed into law.

Updates on housing supports:

  • So far, the City has distributed nearly $900,000 to cover rent for households that cannot get unemployment benefits, out of $8 million allocated to the Rental Relief Fund.

  • The Boston Housing Authority is working with hundreds of families of school children to provide permanent rental vouchers that lift them out of homelessness.

  • Since the construction ban was lifted, 3,000 affordable homes are back in construction.

  • Last week, the City launched its new ONE+Boston mortgage program. This is a first-time home buyer program created using funds from the Community Preservation Act. It has very low interest rates as well as down-payment and closing-cost help. It helps families buy their first home and start to build wealth and is part of the Mayor’s goal of creating 1,000 new homeowners in the City of Boston. To learn more, visit HomeCenter.Boston.gov.

  • The Mayor reminded anyone struggling with mortgage payments to contact their lender to see what they offer. The City has an agreement with lenders to prevent foreclosures, but residents have to reach out to their lender to let them know they need help.

Investments in arts and culture:

  • The Mayor provided some updates on the City’s ongoing investments in arts and culture, which continue through the recovery process. He said that the City has been activating public space in a number of safe ways, and that public art is essential to that work.

  • 24 new projects have received grants through the Transformative Public Art program, and 61 artists will be painting utility boxes as part of the City’s PaintBox program.

  • 2 new murals are going up this summer: one in Newmarket and one at Madison Park High School.

  • The Mayor made a public appeal for residents to be respectful of artists working in public spaces and maintain physical distancing at all times. The Mayor thanked the artists for their work and their contributions.

New round of grants administered through the Boston Resiliency Fund:

  • The Mayor announced that this week, grants totaling more than $500,000 from the Boston Resiliency Fund are going out to 17 organizations. Recipients include youth summer programs and community-based organizations like Hyde Park Pantry and the African Bridge Network.

  • The Mayor also shared some new data on the Fund’s impact.

  • The Fund has raised over $32 million and released over $20 million into the community.

  • Those funds have gone to 247 nonprofit organizations. 46% of these organizations are led by a person of color and 57% are led by women.

  • Their work has helped 225,000 Boston families in every neighborhood of Boston, with a heavy concentration in the communities harmed the most by historic and systemic racism.

  • So far, the Fund has resulted in:

  • COVID testing expansion at 18 community health centers and telehealth services at 21 health centers.

  • Over 1.8 million meals through organizations like the Greater Boston Food Bank and Lovin Spoonfuls.

  • 130,000 bags of groceries given to families and 7,200 gift cards for families to use at grocery stores.

  • $1 million in direct financial help to families who were left out of the federal assistance program.

  • 55 unemployed workers hired for food distribution and 20 minority-owned restaurants paid to cook meals.

  • A month's supply of diapers and formula for 1,000 families.

  • 8,000 Chromebooks for BPS students.

  • Nearly 1,000 childcare seats for essential workers.

  • The Boston Resiliency Fund continues to grow. To learn more, donate, or request grant funding, go to Boston.gov.ResiliencyFund.

Recognizing holidays and important anniversaries:

  • The Mayor closed by acknowledging some important annual events, saying that even though the community is not able to have in-person celebrations, it is still important to reflect on their meaning.

  • Yesterday, June 17, was Bunker Hill Day and the 245th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill in Charlestown. It is an important day for the neighborhood of Charlestown and for the United States of America. It helped turn the tide of the Revolution and helped establish Boston as a hub of American history. The Mayor said that he looks forward to the return of the traditional events, especially the parade.

  • Yesterday was also the 48th anniversary of the Hotel Vendome fire in the Back Bay, which claimed the lives of 9 firefighters. There is a memorial on Commonwealth Avenue that the Mayor encouraged everyone to visit at some point. This past Sunday was the Fire Memorial Service at Forest Hills and Fairview cemeteries. It was an opportunity for the City to pay its respects to all firefighters who have passed and thank the firefighters who protect the city today.

  • Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the 155th anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States. The Mayor offered this reflection:

“[Juneteenth] is a monumental day for our nation and our city. It’s a day when we commemorate the end of slavery and we honor the Black community’s role fighting for their rights and making us a better nation. Tomorrow we’ll be raising the Juneteenth flag at City Hall, to honor this history and our Black community. And we have a web page up at boston.gov/juneteenth to share information and resources. Normally I would be joining community celebrations at Franklin Park and elsewhere. This year is different. But Juneteenth is as important as ever, because the legacy of injustice, and the fight for freedom, continue today. We’ve come a long way in Boston, but there’s so much more work to be done. We started taking some more steps last week, and there will be more to come. But I want to urge everyone, from every race and background, to reflect on what this holiday means; reflect on the suffering and injustice that Black people experienced and continue to experience; and reflect on the history behind the issues we face today. In 2020, we acknowledge the role we all have to play in breaking down systemic racism once and for all. This is a time to make history and move forward.”

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