Dear Neighbors and Friends,
I am writing to you with another update on COVID-19. First, I want to thank everyone for stepping up in the community in one way or another. Working together, we will get through this. Second, many have asked about my family. Julie, myself, and the boys are doing well. We are home together each day, sheltering in place except for an afternoon walk, and are healthy and safe. Thanks for your concerns. COVID-19 Updates from the State, Boston, and Cambridge
- Updates from the State: If you send a text message to the number 888-777 with the message COVIDMA, the State will send you text alerts with the latest information.
- Updates from Boston: The City of Boston launched a daily text message service to get accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19. Text the number 99411 and send the message BOSCOVID to opt-in. It is helpful to receive the latest information.
- Updates from Cambridge: Members of the community are urged to visit the City’s COVID-19 webpage at CambridgeMA.gov/COVID19 to keep current with relevant Cambridge information. Residents can register to receive critical alerts and email updates from the City with information related to COVID-19 in Cambridge.
LATEST STATE UPDATE
The Governor made a series of announcements yesterday. The State’s list of active announcements can be found here.
- Yesterday Governor Baker extended School and Non-Emergency Daycare Closures from April 5th until May 4th. This shows the expectation of the State that this situation will not end shortly.
- WGBH and the State are partnering to air educational programming for kids from Monday through Friday from 12 pm to 5 pm.
- There are many other educational programs that are popping up for children. The daily update from the Cincinnati Zoo has become a favorite of my boys.
Department of Housing and Community Development Updates
- MassHousing is transferring $5 million for a special fund for Rental Assistance for Families in Transition or the RAFT program. This additional funding is directly targeted to providing short-term assistance to low income families. It is a program I support each year in the budget and this additional funding now means more help is available from the existing program.
- Guidance recommending that all owners of state-aided low-income housing, including Local Housing Authorities and private owners, suspend both pending non-essential evictions and the filing of any new non-essential evictions.
- DHCD temporarily suspending the termination dates for existing state and federal rental vouchers
- All expired rental vouchers will be extended for 60 days
- Additional rent assistance grants are now available through Regional Administering Agency, which is Metro Housing Boston for Boston and Cambridge.
- For more information CLICK HERE
Grocery Store and Pharmacy Update
- The use of reusable checkout bags will be prohibited for the duration of the state of emergency, as a precautionary measure. Essential businesses continuing to operate during this time, including those subject to local bans on single use plastic bags, may choose to use recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags or single-use plastic bags. They may not charge customers a fee for these bags.
- As you know, plastic bags and plastic wrap should not be included with common household recycling. Given the precautions being taken, we ask that plastic bags be held onto at this time for future recycling at a drop-off location. Please visit www.RecycleSmartma.org for tips on and answers to recycling questions
- The order also provided more guidance to grocery stores.
The Division of Banks
- Issued new guidance to Massachusetts financial institutions and lenders urging them to provide relief for borrowers and will advocate for a 60-day stay on behalf of all homeowners facing imminent foreclosure on their homes.
As of March 23, Governor Baker issued a Stay-At-Home advisory for all of Massachusetts. This order is in effect from Tuesday March 24 at 12pm to Tuesday April 7 at 12pm. This means that the Governor advises that all non-essential businesses close or do their work remotely. Please note, essential businesses will still be open!
To read the Governor’s advisory, which includes a list of essential services that are still open and available, please CLICK HERE. I worked successfully with others to change the guidance to allow bike repair shops to remain open.
You can still:
- Go to the grocery store
- Go to the pharmacy
- Go for a walk as long as you don’t congregate in groups
- Order take-out to support local restaurants
- Continue your businesses remotely and online – this order asks for physical stores to be closed but if you are able to continue remotely you can.
If you feel that your business is an essential business but is not listed you can apply for essential status HERE. UNEMPLOYMENT QUESTIONS:
If the $2 trillion dollar federal stimulus bill becomes law (it passed the Senate last night), it will allow the Department of Unemployment Assistance to expand eligibility to independent contractors and others currently not eligible, increase the weekly benefits for everyone who receives benefits going forward, and offer benefits for 39 weeks, instead of the current 30 weeks. I will update everyone when this is final. The Department of Unemployment Assistance has indicated it is ready to implement this program immediately upon passage of the federal law.
The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance are hosting daily virtual town hall meetings. The first was last Sunday. During the call, they will take all who sign up through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim. They will also be taking questions from claimants across the Commonwealth. They will post each town hall that occurred on its website, so if the times do not work you can still access the information. They are doing this because their call centers are overwhelmed by the current call volume and some offices have had to be closed to the public because of infected employees.
To apply for benefits CLICK HERE.
To sign-up for the virtual town hall CLICK HERE.
For specific web page updates that include the latest guidance for employee qualifications and additional resources like contact forms and a COVID-19 specific unemployment claim handbook CLICK HERE.
SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES
I know many on this list want to support local businesses. Some businesses are still open, others have closed their physical buildings in compliance with the Governor’s order, but are still offering products online. Boston has put together a restaurant guide, Cambridge has created an operating business guide that includes businesses that had local store fronts, but now can only operate online. Certain neighborhood groups have also created guides. Here are the links:
Local business support guide
- Feel free to add your Beacon Hill business to this google sheet if you are still open or selling your goods online.
List of active/online businesses
There is an urgent need for blood donations at this time. Those who are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to donate are urged to make an appointment ASAP.
You can make an appointment to donate blood now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Type O and platelet donations are especially needed right now.
For more information about donating blood during this time CLICK HERE DONATING MEDICAL EQUIPMENT:
- Every hospital in the area has a need for medical supplies. The need for certain equipment, such as masks, has skyrocketed. Cambridge Health Alliance, Mass General, Boston Medical, and others have put out a call for donations.
- Mass General has suggested that those with 3D printers could produce certain needed supplies, especially N95 masks. I contacted some individuals that have printers and greatly appreciate that they have agreed to make masks and are producing them now. If you would like to participate, you can email email@example.com and they will provide the details.
- You can also fill out the Emergency Supply Hub survey established by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals.
- If you have any supplies or ability to make them and want to be connected to a local hospital, please let me know.
It is still very important to complete our census count for Massachusetts. This will help direct billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities for schools, roads, and other public services. It also determines the number of seats each state has in Congress and your political representation at all levels in government. Please complete your Census Form online HERE. I completed mine the other day. It only took a few minutes.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AND TESTING
Remember to take care of yourself during this time. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed you can call 2-1-1 and choose the Call2Talk option. Here is a helpful graphic provided by the Department of Public Health
If you have questions regarding when you should be tested, here is some helpful guidance.
Please continue to reach out to my office with any questions, suggestions, resources and concerns. I have had many constituents reach out with helpful information and I am proud to represent the people of the 8th Suffolk District. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that all people in the Commonwealth are safe during this unprecedented time.