Dear Neighbors and Friends,
Earlier this week, the Governor’s Office and the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees held an economic roundtable about the economy and the state budget. The times will not be easy when the health crisis ends. The experts made clear that exiting our current situation too early and having to shelter in place again will cause the longest and deepest economic decline. Here is testimony.
Food insecurity is an issue on which I have focused in the legislature. Many new wrinkles to the issue are appearing now. Last month, a constituent complained to me that he could not use his SNAP food benefits because his doctor said that because of his immune issues he should stay away from grocery stores. SNAP beneficiaries cannot use benefits for delivery services unless they can pay upon delivery because of federal rules. Since then, I have heard from other constituents with the same issue.
I found out the federal government was running a pilot program to allow benefits to be used for delivery of food in other states. I worked for a month to get the Governor for a month (this week formally in writing) to have Massachusetts join this effort and the state started to look into it and work towards an approval. This week, I joined colleagues in writing to our federal officials to include funding for this upgrade in the next stimulus bill. Yesterday afternoon, Governor Baker responded to the letter by announcing that the state was close to submitting the formal application for a waiver and may be able to offer the service in the coming months.
I also started working on alternatives that could happen quicker. This week, Representative Mindy Domb and I wrote a letter to Governor Baker requesting an order for grocery stores that had the technology to provide curbside pick-up and payment. This would allow those who use SNAP benefits to access food without having to enter the store and therefore they can continue to practice social distancing. If the Governor issues this order, it will help everyone as they can stay out of stores (and away from others). Over 40 of our colleagues signed on in support of this request. You can read the letter here.
I have also recently advocated for decarceration, improved language access, and among other issues. Little legislation is moving now, so advocating for action by the Executive Branch can lead to much faster results.
Eviction and Residential Foreclosure Moratorium
The House and Senate passed important legislation on which I worked with the lead sponsors, Rep. Mike Connolly and Rep. Kevin Honan, to stop evictions and residential foreclosures during the emergency. I think it is so important we allow people to stay in their homes during this time.
The bill prevents landlords from terminating a tenancy or sending notices to quit in cases deemed “non-essential” for residential and small business leases. Landlords are also barred from notifying consumer reporting agencies about failure to pay. Residential mortgage holders can seek forbearance from monthly payments for up to 180 days under the bill.
Landlords may make use of the final month’s rent paid, if they hold it as a deposit, for certain expenses such as mortgage payments and repairs. Landlords must later replace the funds if they use them.
The bill is on the Governor’s desk and he is expected to sign it shortly.
Health Connector is running a special enrollment period until May 25th. If you lost your job and your health insurance with it, there are state subsidized plans that may work for you.
Timeline for Coverage Start Dates through July 1, 2020:
|Coverage Start Date||Enrollment Deadline|
|May 1||April 23|
|June 1||May 23|
|July 1||May 25|
- Visit https://www.mahealthconnector.org/ to apply!
- For additional resources visit:
Mayor Walsh announced a new mortgage relief partnership to aid homeowners during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City of Boston has partnered with 12 of the largest housing lenders who will offer three months of deferred mortgage payments and an affordable repayment option. You can read more about this partnership here.
Cambridge opened a temporary shelter at the War Memorial Recreational Center yesterday. According to the City, “[t]he War Memorial gymnasium will remain reserved for additional capacity if the need arises; however, this space is not expected to be activated.”
Unemployment & Stimulus Check Updates
- Many have started to receive their federal stimulus checks via direct deposit. If you did not file taxes in the last two years or do not have direct information on file, the IRS has created a form you can fill out to provide that information. You can access that form here and you can look up FAQ here.
- The Department of Unemployment also updated their guidance regarding the CARES Act which you can find here. Benefits for independent contractors and others should be available within two weeks.
The Massachusetts RMV has implemented extensions for expiring licenses, permits, motor vehicle inspection stickers, and passenger plate registrations. You can read their press release here.
If you are now looking for something to do from your home, you can search the State’s unclaimed property list and see if you are due anything. You can also search for others – like your favorite non-profit, religious organization, or neighbor – and potentially share with that individual or group the good news of what you may find.
Small Business and Non-Profits
If you have any questions or comments, please let know. I can be reached at this email or 617-910-6892 and Sarah Mills, my aide, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend.