COVID End of Week Update 8/23/20 + Election Dates/Deadlines & BPS All Remote 9/21/Phased-In 10/1

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you and those you love are doing well and staying healthy.

As long as we're without leadership in the White House, a coordinated COVID-19 national strategy remains elusive. Please make a plan to vote and read my Vote Early Boston 2020 post from last week. It outlines all the ways available to you to vote -- by mail/return via drop box at early voting sites, early in person, or in person on election day.

If you made yesterday's primary election registration deadline (8/22 @ 8PM), nice work - you did it! Next, make sure you request a ballot by THIS WED 8/26 @ 8PM. If you didn't make the primary registration deadline, don't fret, but do be sure to take action to register before 10/24 so can vote in the general election on 11/3.

Important Deadlines

Primary 9/1: register by 8/22 @ 8pm - passed

Vote by Mail: request ballot by 8/26 @ 8pm - this Wed!

Early Voting: 8/22 - 8/28 @ 11am-7pm *drop boxes @ all early voting sites* - started yesterday

General 11/3: register by 10/24

Vote by Mail: request ballot by 10/28

Warmly,

Liz

Liz Malia

State Representative

11th Suffolk

liz.malia@mahouse.gov

617-722-2380

Refer to this very helpful early voting FAQ to answer all your questions, including these three common ones below:

Q: How can I return my ballot?

A: You can return you ballot by mail or in person. If you are mailing your ballot, use the return envelope that was provided with the ballot, which is pre-addressed and pre-stamped for your convenience. If you are hand-delivering your ballot, you can drop it off at your local election office, in an official ballot return drop box, or at any early voting location during early voting hours. Contact your local election office for the location of any secure drop box they have provided for ballot return.

Q: Can I track my ballot?

A: Yes, you can track your ballot at www.TrackMyBallotMA.com. This page will show you if your application has been received, the date your ballot is mailed, the date your ballot is received at your local election office, and whether your ballot is accepted or rejected.

Q: Why was my ballot rejected?

A: If your ballot was rejected, it is most likely because you did not sign the affidavit on your ballot envelope. Your local election official will notify you if your ballot is rejected and the reason it was rejected. If there is enough time left before the election, you will also be sent a new ballot. You will also have the option of voting in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

State Updates

Upcoming

8/29-8/30 - SALES TAX HOLIDAY: Consumers get a holiday from the state sales tax this weekend -- on most retail items less than $2,500. This year's tax holiday weekend lands as stores are eagerly seeking business in their recovery from pandemic-related shutdowns, but it also means millions in lost tax dollars for state government which already faces a major revenue shortfall. The Department of Revenue estimated that last year's sales tax holiday resulted in between $20 million and $35.7 million in foregone revenue. DOR pegged the 2018 holiday at between $16.7 million and $37.7 million in foregone revenue. A sales tax holiday was long a traditional summertime gift from lawmakers to consumers and businesses, and was permanently marked on the calendar in 2018 under the so-called Grand Bargain law. (Saturday, Aug. 29 through Sunday, Aug. 30)

8/26 - BALLOT REQUEST DEADLINE: Applications for mail-in ballots must reach local election offices by Wednesday for applicants wishing to vote by mail in the Sept. 1 primary. Secretary Galvin is now encouraging voters to return their mail-in ballot by hand, to a dropbox, early voting site or local election office, in order to ensure they are counted. (Wednesday)

8/24 - EVICTION MORATORIUM HEARING: U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf holds a hearing in a case brought by Massachusetts landlords against state officials alleging the eviction and foreclosure moratorium violates their constitutional rights. The hearing will cover abstention issues that the state defendants raised in a motion to dismiss or stay the case and could potentially take up a motion for a preliminary injunction that would temporarily lift the ban on most evictions and foreclosures that runs through Oct. 17. Plaintiffs are seeking legal action in both state and federal court. The hearing will be conducted by video conference, and the public can register to view proceedings three days beforehand. Register here. (Monday, 10 a.m.)

Occurred

8/21 - Seasonal Closure of Community Pools and Spray Decks - The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced it will extend the season for agency-managed spray decks through Sunday, September 27. Please note that DCR-managed deep-water and wading pools will close for the season at the end of the day on Sunday, August 23.

8/21 - No COVID-19 Data Report on Sunday, 8/23 - Due to a planned data system upgrade this weekend, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will not publish a COVID-19 data report on Sunday, 8/23. Posting will resume Monday 8/24 when all information from the weekend will be included.

8/21 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.

8/20 - The Department of Public Health is monitoring the presence of mosquito-borne diseases in Massachusetts, including West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Currently, Massachusetts has found positive mosquito samples of WNV and EEE and there are 3 known human cases of EEE and 1 known human case of WNV. To learn more, click here.

8/20 - Governor Baker announced the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health will be issuing guidance regarding a rapid response testing program for K-12 schools in Massachusetts. This program will allow tests to be delivered quickly and provide resources to students and schools.

8/19 - Flu Vaccine Required for Students - The state now requires the influenza (flu) immunization for all children 6 months of age or older who will attend Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools, as well as college and university students under 30 years of age, and all students enrolled in health science-related programs. The new requirement is an important step to reduce flu related illness and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will be expected to have received a flu vaccine by December 31, 2020 for the 2020-2021 influenza season, unless either a medical or religious exemption is provided. Also exempted are K-12 students who are homeschooled and higher education students who are completely off-campus and engaged in remote learning only. The updated table of immunization requirements for the upcoming school year can be found here.

8/19 - Governor Baker announced $3.3 million in grants to address urgent food insecurity for Massachusetts residents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and make the Commonwealth's food system more resilient. This funding is being awarded as part of the second round of the new $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, created following recommendations from the Administration's COVID-19 Command Center's Food Security Task Force, which promotes ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to healthy, local food. The second round of the grant program includes 34 awards totaling $3,324,349 to fund investments in technology, equipment, increased capacity, and other assistance to help producers distribute food, especially to food insecure communities. When evaluating the applications, considerations included equity, economic impact and need, sustainability and scalability of efforts, and ability to support producer readiness to accept SNAP and HIP benefits. This round follows the first round of $2,941,838 in grants awarded last month to 26 recipients.

Applications will continue to be evaluated on a rolling basis through September 15, 2020. 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, urban farms and community gardens, non-profits, and organizations that provide business planning, technical assistance and information technology services. The Request for Responses for project proposals is available here.

8/19 - The Baker administration announced about 70% of MA school systems plan to bring students back to the classroom at least part time this fall.

8/17 - Pandemic Unemployment Assistance extended an additional 7 weeks for all claimants, and the maximum duration is now 46 weeks instead of 39 weeks. Traditional UI claimants may be eligible for extended benefits of up to up to 13 weeks. Regular unemployment insurance claimants who are eligible to apply for extended benefits will receive notification. PUA claimants do not need to do anything to receive the additional 7 weeks and will receive a notice through the PUA system that their benefits have been extended.

8/17 - Hawaii added to the list of states covered by MA's COVID-19 travel order. Starting today, anyone travelling from Hawaii to MA must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or provide results of a negative COVID-19 test taken at most 72 hours before arriving in MA.

8/17 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.

Legislative Updates

Five conference committees continue their work to reconcile major legislation regarding climate change, economic development, public safety reform, telehealth/community hospitals, transportation finance. We've extended the 191st General Court session and remain "on-call" to return as soon as any of the conference committees are ready for a final, up or down, enactment vote in both chambers.

Stay tuned for a more comprehensive end of session summary from me in the coming days.

8/21 - Continued School Meal Flexibility

This week, I joined 92 of my colleagues, almost half the MA state legislature, in writing to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ask for existing waivers to be extended, so that school meal programs can continue to have the flexibility to serve children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA extended the waivers for the summer, our letter - led by Christine Barber, Hannah Kane, Jay Livingstone and Sal DiDomenico - asked for another extension through the 2020-21 school year. State education officials also submitted a waiver extension request on July 24. "The reopening of schools will vary from community to community. Some children will continue to learn from home, some will return full-time, and many will experience some hybrid of the two models," we wrote. "This, coupled with the potential for further school closures in the future, highlights the need for School Food Authorities (SFAs) to have flexibility to react and innovate in all potential scenarios."

8/19 - Bipartisan State Elected Letter to Federal Leaders: Support USPS Safe and Timely Delivery

This week, I signed a joint letter sent to Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi, lead by Speaker DeLeo and Minority Leader Jones, that expresses our extreme concern about a letter the US Postal Service sent to State Secretary Galvin saying it could not guarantee all mail-in ballots in November would be delivered in time to be counted. As reported by the Commonwealth Magazine, the letter asserts “This is completely unacceptable as it would effectively disenfranchise a significant number of American voters. The cost-cutting measures implemented by the Postmaster General directly impact a trustworthy service the American people rely on to receive prescriptions, receive their Social Security checks to pay the bills and now these measures directly impact the peoples’ constitutional right to vote,” we wrote. The letter will also be sent to all of our congressional delegation colleagues.

8/18 - $1.8 B Bond Bill The MA State House of Representatives and the MA State Senate enacted a $1.8 billion bond bill to strengthen the Commonwealth’s information technology and physical infrastructure. The legislation authorizes funding for food security, law enforcement body cameras, and investments in educational technologies in schools. The Governor signed the bill, which is now Chapter 151 of the Acts of 2020.

The capital plan, which includes $794 million for state and local general technology and physical infrastructure, features the following targeted investments:

  • $110 million in public safety infrastructure and equipment

  • $134 million in statewide economic development grants and reinvestment in disproportionately impacted communities

  • $80 million in educational IT and infrastructure grants, including $50 million to assist public schools in facilitating remote learning environments

  • $10 million to fund technology investments at community health centers

  • $37 million in food security grants

  • $25 million in capital improvements for licensed early education and care providers and after school programs to ensure safe reopening during COVID-19

  • $30 million in public safety accountability technologies including body cameras and a race and ethnicity data sharing system

  • $300,000 in public schools in the city of Boston to provide increased broadband inte