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,

Liz


Liz Malia

State Representative

11th Suffolk District

liz.malia@mahouse.gov

ELECTIONS

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. 


For a list of commonly asked questions, click here.


Key Dates:

  • 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.

RESOURCES


HOUSING


10/13/20 - Baker-Polito Administration announcement relative to an eviction diversion initiative.

Mass.gov/covidhousinghelp for more detailed information, including a summary and FAQ page.

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.

CDC Moratorium


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.

UNEMPLOYMENT


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:

  1. You were earning $5,100 or more from an employer in the prior 4 completed calendar quarters (approximately the past year), AND

  2. Your employer was withholding taxes from your paycheck (or gave you a W-2 form for your taxes), AND

  3. Your loss of income is due to COVID-19, OR

  4. 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.

See:

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.

See:


HEALTH CARE

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.