Extended Session: Resources & Legislative Action, So Far...
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the days feel cooler and shorter, we reflect upon where we are as a community, a city, a state, and a nation.
During these uncertain times, we must continue to be kind and caring toward ourselves and one another. We must ask for help if we need it and offer to assist others if we are able. And we must prepare to vote.
Please find below some relevant updates regarding elections, housing, unemployment and health care resources, and state budgetary and legislative items.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or requests for assistance. Remember, you can sign up for my virtual office hours on the 2nd and 3rd Fridays of each month.
Be good to yourselves,
11th Suffolk District
Boston's Board of Election Commissioners certified the City of Boston's plan for early voting sites and ballot dropbox locations for the November 3, 2020, State Election.
Saturday, October 24: last day to register to vote. Individuals can register to vote in person, online, by mail or through the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Residents planning to register in person, make sure you make an appointment with the Elections Department. Although all other City Hall departments taking appointments are only open to the public on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 am to 5, the Election Department is also scheduling appointments on Mondays and Wednesdays at City Hall, Room 241
Wednesday, October 28: last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot
Saturday, October 17 - Friday October 30: Early Voting Period. All registered voters in Boston are allowed to vote early, and at any early voting location. Unlike voting on Eection Day, you don’t have to vote at your assigned polling location. Vote at the location that is most convenient for you. All ballot styles will be available at every early voting location.
STATE ELECTION EARLY VOTING UPDATE
All early voting locations are accessible to voters with disabilities. Every location will also have AutoMark machines for voters who need assistance marking their ballots.
There are 27 early voting sites for the November 3 State Election, including Boston City Hall. You can see information on sites across the City on this map.
10/13/20 - Baker-Polito Administration announcement relative to an eviction diversion initiative.
The Administration is making a $171 million total commitment this fiscal year, with $112 million of new funding to support new and expanded housing stability programs during the remainder of the fiscal year, including:
$100 million commitment this fiscal year to expand the capacity of the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program to provide relief to renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19;
$48.7 million to HomeBASE and other rapid rehousing programs for when tenants are evicted and are at risk of homelessness;
$12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords with access to legal representation and related services prior to and during the eviction process, as well as community mediation to help tenants and landlords resolve cases outside of court;
$6.5 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs), the “front door” for those facing a housing emergency; and
$3.8 million for the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP), to provide case management support and to act as a neutral party to help tenants and landlords come to agreement.
New investments will expand the capacity of the RAFT program and increase the maximum benefit available through RAFT from $4,000 to $10,000 per household, with a goal of helping more families stabilize their housing for six months, or until the end of June if there are school-age children in the household, on their path to recovery. New funding will also expand capacity at the nine regional Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) to provide housing counseling and coordinate with community mediators, legal services, and caseworkers. Income eligible tenants and landlords will also be able to access legal representation and related services as they navigate the eviction process.
The Administration is also updating the RAFT program to improve turnaround time on applications, while maintaining program integrity, by:
Streamlining the application process for both the RAFT and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs for low to moderate income households;
Verifying applicant eligibility with data collected through MassHealth, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA), and the Department of Revenue (DOR);
Referring applicants to MassHIRE Career Centers; and
Allowing landlords who own fewer than 20 units to apply directly for RAFT and ERMA, with consent from tenants.
With the goal of bringing landlords and tenants together to avoid an eviction, the Administration will invest in expanding access to mediation services. In coordination with the Trial Court, the Administration is working to launch a new Community Mediation program that will be available prior to a court filing, and supplement court-provided mediation that is generally available after a filing has been made. The Administration will also provide funding to the Trial Courts to support bringing back recall judges to help handle caseload once the moratorium ends and to add additional housing specialists to help mediate agreements. Additionally, the existing Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) will be expanded to serve a broader population of vulnerable households.
Massachusetts will also provide additional funding for post-eviction diversion, helping households to find new housing quickly and prevent a longer period of homelessness. HomeBASE, the Commonwealth’s rapid rehousing benefit, and the Strategic Prevention Initiative (SPI) will be expanded and continue to offer financial assistance and stabilization case management services to families as they are in the process of securing stable housing. A new temporary emergency program will also provide funds to households for periods of up to 12 months to assist with moving expenses, rent, including first or last month’s, or security deposit, while transitioning into a stable housing situation.
When the state moratorium expired, Saturday October 17, a moratorium established by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) became effective in Massachusetts. Through December, the CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Courts will accept filings and process cases, and may enter judgments but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order. Protection is limited to households who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria. Declaration may be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf
Effective, October 13, to ensure tenants are aware of available resources, the Administration kicked off a public information campaign, including a new option available to call the Massachusetts 2-1-1 information hotline. Operators for 2-1-1 are trained to answer questions and connect residents to the agencies that administer RAFT and ERMA. An easier path to important information has also been launched on the state’s website: mass.gov/CovidHousingHelp. This effort also includes outreach through social media, videos, webinars, and other mediums. All materials and messaging will be made available in multiple languages.
Together, the Administration estimates resources will help thousands of households with varying levels of needs; up to 50,000 households will have access to services at their local Housing and Consumer Education Centers, up to 25,000 households will have access to legal support or community mediation, and up to 18,000 households will have direct financial support.
If you had to stop working because of COVID-19 Apply for unemployment insurance as soon as you can.
Federal Law (CARES Act and "Lost Wages" Executive Order) and Unemployment
Date: 10/15/2020 Author: Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Includes information on all the new Unemployment Insurance programs established under the Federal CARES Act of March, 2020, including eligibility requirements and benefit amounts and guidance on how to apply. Also includes information on the $300 in additional weekly benefits under President Trump's "Lost Wages" Executive Order.
Do I apply for Regular UI or PUA?
Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI), is the program for Massachusetts regular employees who lost their jobs before COVID-19. If you are a regular employee and you lost your job due to COVID-19 apply to this program. "Regular employees" have taxes withheld from their pay and get a W-2 form. Once your state checks run out you can also get 13 weeks of federal extended UI benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC for any claim that you had applied for after July 7, 2018. And if you use up all your PEUC benefits, depending on how many weeks of regular UI you got, you may be eligible to get up to 13 weeks of Extended Benefits or EB.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), is a temporary unemployment insurance program. Congress created this program to help workers who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance.
Apply for regular unemployment insurance if:
You were earning $5,100 or more from an employer in the prior 4 completed calendar quarters (approximately the past year), AND
Your employer was withholding taxes from your paycheck (or gave you a W-2 form for your taxes), AND
Your loss of income is due to COVID-19, OR
Apart from COVID-19, you were laid off, quit for good cause or had urgent, personal reasons for leaving your job, or you were fired and any alleged misconduct or rule violation was not intentional on your part.
You cannot get regular UI if:
You can work from home and get paid.
You are getting paid leave from your employer or
You are not a citizen and you do not have work authorization.
COVID-19 related reasons for stopping work to learn if your loss of income counts as “due to COVID.”
COVID-19 and Regular Unemployment Insurance program and
How do I apply? More information on Regular UI is on pages 5 to 11.
Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if:
You lost income due to COVID-19 and:
You do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance because of the kind of work you do or
You cannot get regular UI because:
You already used up your regular UI and the 13 week PEUC extension and the 13 week EB extension if you are eligible for it.
Before you left work due to COVID-19, you were disqualified from regular UI when you lost your prior job and now you cannot get the 8 weeks of work you need to qualify for UI again.
You didn’t earn enough or work long enough (generally at least 15 weeks) to get regular UI, OR
You were denied regular UI (you need to have applied for regular UI first) because you are a member of the clergy, a religious worker, a college or high-school student who lost part time work, including a work-study job due to COVID-19, or you cannot work because you need to provide full-time care to a child or adult in your home whose care facility is not available due to COVID-19.
You cannot get PUA if:
You can work from home and get paid.
You are getting paid sick leave from your employer.
You are not a citizen and you do not have a United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued Alien Registration number (A number) and work authorization.
You earned $5,100 or more in W-2 wages the previous year, which made you eligible on the basis of these earnings for UI. Because these wages made you eligible for regular UI, you were required to, but did not, apply for regular UI first.
COVID-19 related reasons for stopping work to learn if your loss of income counts as “due to COVID.”
COVID-19 and Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program
The Massachusetts Health Connector is the state's Marketplace for health and dental insurance. Before your get started, be sure to check the Help Center for information, guides, and where to find free, in-person help near you. Enrollment Assisters can help you unders
tand new coverage options available and find the most affordable coverage that meets your needs.
These trained and certified individuals can help you from application through enrollment into new health insurance plans and answer your questions about your eligibility, application, payments, plan details, and health care reform rules and requirements.
2021 Open Enrollment
November 01, 2020 - January 23, 2021
Health Connector Payment Due Date October 23, 2020
STATE BUDGET UPDATE
REVISED FISCAL 2021 BUDGET HEARING
Wednesday, October 21 at 12 p.m., Hearing Room A-2 - WATCH LIVE STREAM
The House and Senate Ways and Means committees will hold a virtual hearing featuring invited testimony on Gov. Baker's revised $45.5 billion budget. Baker filed an updated budget plan that relies on $1.8 billion in federal relief funding and $1.35 billion in reserves to cover up a $3.6 billion decline in anticipated tax revenue. Baker said he'd like to see a budget back on desk before Thanksgiving so that planning can begin for fiscal 2022.
EXTENDED END OF SESSION
2019-2020 Legislative Accomplishments, So Far
Signed Into Law
Student Opportunity Act: Provides $1.7 billion in new funding for public education over the next seven years.
Hands Free Driving: Prohibits the use of handheld devices like mobile phones while driving, unless using for GPS or enabling hands-free mode.
Conversion Therapy Ban: Prohibits the discriminatory and discredited practice of conversion therapy among youth.
SAPHE Act: Legislation I filed to support collaboration between local boards of health to deliver high-quality and efficient public health services.
Lift the Cap on Kids (Legislature overrode Governor’s veto): Repeals the family cap, which would otherwise deny welfare benefits to children born after a family starts receiving benefits.
Modernizing Tobacco Control: Bans flavored e-cigarette and vaping products, including mint and menthol, and imposes taxes on the sales of e-cigarette and vaping products.
Nicky’s Law: Creates a registry of care providers who harm a person with intellectual or developmental disability and prevents those providers from being hired by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).
Labor Rights (Janus) (Legislature overrode Governor’s veto): Enables Massachusetts employee organizations to charge non-members the reasonable costs associated with representing them legally through the grievance process, in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME,
Title X Funding: Allocates $8 million for family planning services to replace federal funding lost due to the President’s gag rule.
FY20 Budget: Provides $42.7 billion to fund state operations and major investments in education, the environment, substance use disorder services, health care, and other areas while depositing record totals into the state’s rainy day fund.
Children’s Wellness: Extends healthcare coverage to age 26 for foster children and requires health insurance company to frequently update provider directories.
College Stability: Enables the state to more closely monitor the financial health of Massachusetts private colleges and universities and provide transparency and security to students and families in the Commonwealth.
IT Bond Bill: Authorizes $1.7 billion in spending for the improvement of state information technology equipment and related projects in Massachusetts.
COVID-19 Response Signed into Law
Rent and Foreclosure Moratorium: Places a moratorium on all non-criminal evictions for residential and commercial tenants and foreclosures during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
Vote by Mail: Guarantees your right to vote in person or by mail after completing an application mailed to your home in both the primary and general elections this Fall.
Long-Term Care and Elder Housing Facilities COVID-19 Data Reporting: Enhances COVID-19 data reporting at elder care facilities, soldiers’ homes, and houses of correction and creates a task force to mitigate health disparities for underrepresented and underserved communities in the wake of the pandemic.
Unemployment Insurance Improvements: Provides additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) relief to low-income families, non-profit institutions and employers.
Support for Schools and Homeless During COVID-19 Crisis: Waived the MCAS requirement and provided flexibility to state housing programs to assist those experiencing homelessness.
Municipal Relief: Provides cities and towns the authority to postpone and reschedule certain municipal elections and related activities.
COVID-19 Supp Federal Reimbursement: Authorizes spending to facilitate federal CARES Act funding to reimburse communities hard-hit by COVID-19. This legislation also designated Juneteenth as an official state holiday.
Virtual Notarization: Authorizes notary publics to perform notary actions using video conferencing during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Restaurant Support: Eases outdoor dining restrictions and expands alcohol takeout options to include beer, wine, and mixed drinks.
Tax Deadline: Extended the state tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.
Different Versions Passed in House and Senate
Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement: Makes significant structural reforms to policing in Massachusetts by implementing changes to training, establishing certification of law enforcement officers, and providing for continued assessment of the role of race in our state institutions.
2050 Roadmap: Requires the state to develop a plan to address climate change over the next thirty years and makes other critical changes to promote renewable energy in Massachusetts.
Economic Development: Provides $459 million in bond funding for job creation and economic development projects.
Health Care: A tailored piece of legislation to support the health of individuals and the strength of our healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic through telehealth and other supports.
Accountability for Vulnerable Children and Families: Passed as part of my work leading the House’s Caring Collaboration for Children and Families, this improves accountability and outcomes for children and families.
Passed by House and Awaiting Action in Senate
Transportation Revenue: Invests up to $600 million annually in an immediate and critical infusion of transportation funding.
GreenWorks: Authorizes $1.3 billion in bonding to help cities and towns across Massachusetts fund infrastructure projects aimed at fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Racial Inequities in Maternal Health: Creates a special legislative commission to make recommendations that reduce or remove the kind of racial inequities that result in women of color dying of pregnancy-related causes at more than double the rate of white women.
Below are the five conference committees currently working to reconcile different versions of legislation passed by each chamber.
BILLS: S 2820 and H 4886 HOUSE VOTE: July 24, 93-66 SENATE VOTE: July 14, 30-7 HOUSE CONFEREES: Claire Cronin, Carlos Gonzalez, Tim Whelan SENATE CONFEREES: Will Brownsberger, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Bruce Tarr DATE SENT TO CONFERENCE: July 27, 2020
The MA House passed a bill An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth to improve policing in Massachusetts by establishing a certification process, creating an independent and empowered oversight board, and codifying restrictions on the use of force measures, among other measures. As I understand it, in the end, the bill included the four major priorities of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus: 1. standardized police training in the Commonwealth 2. an independent body to investigate police misconduct 3. a civil service review to increase diversity 4. a commission to study structural racism.
Overall, the House-passed bill, as amended, does the following: establishes the Massachusetts Police Standards and Training Commission (MPSTC), a seven-person board charged with the responsibility to certify, restrict, and, following due process, revoke and suspend certification for police officers; removes qualified immunity for those individuals whom have been decertified by the MPSTC and limits the use of facial recognition technology; forms the Division of Training and Certification, comprised of 6 police chiefs, the Colonel of the State Police, the Boston Police Commissioner, 2 sheriffs, one police officer appointed by the governor, and one person selected by the Secretary of Public Safety and Security, to devise appropriate training and certification standards for police; and creates a number of commissions to investigate structural racism in correctional facilities, the parole process and probation services as well as a commission on the status of African Americans in Massachusetts.
More specifically, the bill:
Establishes restrictions on the use of force: allows physical and deadly force only in the event of certain conditions, bans chokeholds, limits the discharge of a firearm into a fleeing vehicle, and restricts the use of tear gas, rubber pellets and dogs;
Sets Massachusetts on a path for reform and investigation of: The Civil Service System & Structural racism in: Correctional Facilities, Parole Process, Probation Services;
Creates a law enforcement body camera task force;
Establishes permanent commissions on the status of African Americans and Latinos, respectively, to ensure African Americans and Latinos equitably benefit from and have access to government services in the same manner as other citizens of the commonwealth;
Creates a statewide law enforcement officer cadet program;
Creates two separate and parallel tracks: removes qualified immunity for those police officers who are decertified by the commission after due process and continues to study qualified immunity more broadly;
Creates a process around the use and training of School Resource Officers and limits on student record sharing by schools;
Prohibits officers from having sexual intercourse with a person in custody and creates strong penalties for such conduct;
Makes it a crime for an officer to submit a false timesheet;
Requires no-knock warrant be issued by a judge (previously left to a clerk magistrate) and only if the affidavit supporting the request establishes probable cause that if the officer announces their presence their life or the lives of others will be endangered, and only if no minor child or person over 65 is present; and
Allows an officer to enter a residence without a no-knock warrant only if there is a credible risk of imminent harm.
BILLS: S 2796 and H 4916 HOUSE VOTE: July 29, 158-0 SENATE VOTE: June 25, 38-0 HOUSE CONFEREES: Ron Mariano, Dan Cullinane, Randy Hunt SENATE CONFEREES: Cindy Friedman, Julian Cyr, Dean Tran DATE SENT TO CONFERENCE: July 31, 2020
BILLS: H 4547 and S 2836 HOUSE VOTE: March 5, 150-1 SENATE VOTE: July 16, 36-4 HOUSE CONFEREES: William Straus, Mark Cusack, Norman Orrall SENATE CONFEREES: Joseph Boncore, Michael Rodrigues, Dean Tran DATE SENT TO CONFERENCE: July 23, 2020
BILLS: S 2874 and H 4887 HOUSE VOTE: July 28, 156-3 SENATE VOTE: June 29, 40-0 HOUSE CONFEREES: Aaron Michlewitz, Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Donald Wong SENATE CONFEREES: Eric Lesser, Michael Rodrigues, Patrick O'Connor DATE SENT TO CONFERENCE: July 30, 2020
BILLS: S 2500 and H 4933 HOUSE VOTE: July 31, 142-17 SENATE VOTE: Jan. 30, 36-2 HOUSE CONFEREES: Thomas Golden, Patricia Haddad, Brad Jones SENATE CONFEREES: Michael Barrett, Cindy Creem, Patrick O'Connor DATE SENT TO CONFERENCE: Aug. 6, 2020