Dear Neighbors and Friends, 

I write to you with a few more updates from the past week. Thank you to everyone who has continued to follow social-distancing guidelines and who have reached out to neighbors offering support. There has been some new information from the CDC recommending the use of masks when out in public and I have provided some clarifications below. 

This week I filed two bills to address independent contractors and make them eligible for unemployment insurance, so we will not need special federal legislation in the future to cover them (the situation in which we currently find ourselves).  Here are the bills:

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/HD5019

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/HD5018

MASKS 

Getting ready to take a walk. 

The CDC is now recommending that all people wear cloth or fabric masks when in public settings, including the grocery store, pharmacies, or when on a daily walk. Both Boston and Cambridge have issued the same guidance.  The reason for this is because a significant portion of people are asymptomatic and therefore could be spreading the virus without knowing it. There has been some confusion around the mask requirements so I would like to clear that up.

  • Please do not use medical grade masks. There is still a large shortage of PPE for our frontline workers and all medical masks need to go to them. The CDC recommends using a fabric mask, bandana or scarf. 
  • Wearing a mask does not mean you can ease up on social distancing. These masks do not necessarily protect a healthy person from getting the virus but rather, helps prevent someone who is asymptomatic from spreading it. Please continue to social distance and only leave your home for essentials. 
  • Wearing a mask in public is not being enforced by the state but is highly recommended by the CDC and by state officials. 
  • Please visit the CDC website to learn more about the use of masks in public and to see a video on how to make your own face covering. 

UNEMPLOYMENT 

The CARES Act: 

The Department of Unemployment Assistance announced implementation plans and dates for the unemployment provisions and expansion within the Federal CARES Act. Updates can be followed on the DUA’s site here. They are as follows:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – the additional $600 a week for recipients – will begin being disbursed to claimants this week and will be retroactive to March 29th, so if you were already unemployed prior to the 29th you should expect an additional $600 for the prior week. 
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – expanded eligibility for individuals not covered under traditional unemployment insurance (self-employed, sole proprietors, gig economy workers, etc.) – is not expected to be implemented and live until April 30th, however once determined eligible claimants will be able to receive retroactive benefits back to February 2, 2020 (or whenever they first became unemployed after that date).
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – a 13-week extension of benefits for individuals who exhausted their previous benefits. The Department of Unemployment Assistance is awaiting additional federal guidance on how to implement and administer this program and the extended weeks of PEUC benefits are not yet available.  There is also a bill pending in the House that I support to add four more weeks. 

Massachusetts Legal Services has created a webpage with help information around legal services that are particularly relevant to lower-income people in Massachusetts. They also provide updated fact sheets on unemployment insurance, including current federal updates and the CARES Act, which can be found in both English and Spanish. 

STATE UPDATES

  • Governor Baker announced a new infusion of $800 million at MassHealth in critical stabilization funding to support health care providers impacted by and responding to COVID-19. For more information and a breakdown of these funds you can read the press release here.
  • The House and Senate passed a bill that would cancel all MCAS tests that have yet to be administered. This bill now sits in front of Governor Baker. You can read the revised bill here

BOSTON UPDATES

  • Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced this afternoon that Boston University will be partnering with the City of Boston to house employees of the Pine Street Inn on the Fenway Campus. As the COVID-19 situation unfolded, BU began working with the City to identify ways to best help contribute to the needs of our partners in the City. For more information about this announcement please refer to this BU Today story.
    • Altogether the city has secured a total of 284 beds for first responders and shelter staff.
      • Northeastern University is providing 135 single-occupancy rooms in one of its dorms for Boston’s first responders who need to self-isolate.
      • Boston University is providing 75 rooms to homeless shelter staff who work at the Pine Street Inn. 
      • Hotel Boston in Brighton has 74 rooms available for members of Boston Police, Fire and EMS who have tested positive for COVID-19 or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, and are unable to isolate at home.

CAMBRIDGE UPDATES

  • The City of Cambridge officially began accepting applications for the COVID-19 Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund. For more information click here
  • Today the City announced that it has partnered with Broad Institute on Pilot Project for COVID-19 Testing in Nursing Homes. 

GUIDANCE FOR IMMIGRANTS 

The City of Boston has created a COVID-19 Resource Guide for Immigrants which is available in 6 different languages, with more languages being added very soon.  

SPANISH LANGUAGE UPDATES

I have advocated with my colleagues for the State to make available resources and forms in more language.  The Administration has started to respond. This afternoon, Governor Baker announced that “AlertsMA” is now available in Spanish. This expansion of the text-alert system means that the same text alerts that are distributed via the English-language system will now be available to Spanish-language users.  Users can subscribe to the Spanish-language service by texting COVIDMAESP to 888-777.

STIMULUS CHECKS

I learned from Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley this week that stimulus checks ($1200 per person or $2400 per couple subject to income limits) will be deposited into accounts next week for those whom the IRS has direct deposit account information.  The IRS is also in the process of setting up a website so that people can provide direct deposit information to the IRS if it does not have it. For those receiving social security and not paying taxes, the amount will be included in the next social security payment.  For everyone else, checks will be mailed in a few weeks. 

Finally, people have asked me for recommendations on non-profits to help and how to support local small businesses.  Here is the information regarding non-profits and small business.

As always, please continue to reach out with any issues or concerns. 

Best,
Jay  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Might Also Like...

Letter Re: Recent Comments by Fisher College Officials
Advocates kept in dark about planned tower’s shadows
Senator: Duck boat bill features ‘common sense’ requirements
Rep. Livingstone and Rep. Provost Jointly File Speed Limit Reduction Bill
State Budget Process