2020 Quarter 4 | UPDATE
Dear Friends,

I have never been so happy to see the end of a year in sight. 2020 has been a very difficult year for all of us, but many have experienced far greater personal and economic loss and impact than others. As history has shown us many times before, our nation comes together to confront challenges and the bonds that bind us strengthen each time we face adversity together.  I hope that you are able to find joy in the holidays and that the new year will bring new hope for a return to shared times together with family and friends!
I am grateful to have been re-elected to my 4th term in November and I am excited for the start of the new session in January. While the State House is still closed and in-person events are rare, it has been a busy few months since my last update and the start of the legislative session will bring about a robust schedule of bill filing and cosponsorship, committee assignments and briefings. This past year I have also helped cover informal session for the Republican caucus as the House meets twice a week to advance local bills and non-controversial legislation. It is always an honor to be part of! 
6th Annual Hannah Kane Charity Classic
On Monday, August 17th we held the 6th Annual Hannah Kane Charity Classic at the Haven. The format had to change a bit due to the pandemic and social distancing, but the sense of camaraderie, giving, and fun on the course did not. We raised over $60,000, which divided into $20,000 each for St. Anne’s Human Services, Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, and the Westborough Food Pantry. Thank you to Presenting Sponsor Howard Grossman of Grossman Development Group, Tournament Director Beth Casavant, the entire Host Committee, our donors and golfers, and the Haven for ensuring the tournament could be played and enjoyed. 

You can watch my show Conversations with Hannah that we taped at the locations of our three charities here and look at all the pictures from the day here. Thank you to Melissa Pride-Fahs, Julia Casavant and Shrewsbury Media Connection for the excellent photography and video.
Beacon Hill Update
As I reported in my last update, the Legislature extended past the usual July 31st end of formal session in the second year of our legislative session. This decision was reflective of the potential need to respond to the pandemic, to complete a fiscal year 2021 budget and to act on five pieces of legislation that each remained in Conference Committee, including legislation on health care, transportation, economic development, and climate change.

Ways and Means FY21 Budget Hearing: The Joint Committee on Ways and Means held a virtual hearing on October 7th with select economists, Treasurer Goldberg, and Revenue Commissioner Snyder, each invited to testify on their perspectives and prognostications for the current fiscal year given the continuing pandemic and corresponding economic upheaval, as well as the uncertainty around what, if any, additional support will come from the federal level. While there were certainly some differences of opinion on the exact size of the tax revenue decrease forecasted as compared to the original consensus revenue of $31.151B, the insight and analysis of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) was the most straightforward and pragmatic - FY 2021 tax revenues would fall by $3.9 billion, or 12.5 percent from the FY 2021 January benchmark of $31.15 billion on which Governor Baker’s budget was based. $27.27 billion is what MTF projected for tax revenues in FY2021. While still sizable, it is less than the $6 billion MTF had estimated in June. The current crisis is a public health one that is causing an economic crisis. When the pandemic is controlled, economic recovery should follow. Because of the continued uncertainty about the pandemic’s path, and the sheer number of potential headwinds associated with that, the pace of economic recovery requires careful monitoring of the fiscal situation and a cautionary approach to budgeting, which is why it wasn’t until December this year that the budget was finalized.

FY21 Budget: The Legislature passed the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget on December 4th after several weeks of debate in both the House and Senate. In a normal year the budget is debated in the spring and early summer and signed by the Governor in July, but due to the devastating effect COVID-19 has had on the economy and the uncertainty surrounding what the budgetary impacts would be and how much the Commonwealth would receive in federal aid, the legislative session was extended and the budget debate was pushed back to November. 

The budget, which represents a compromise negotiated by a six-member House and Senate conference committee, covers state spending through June 30, 2021, and came five months after the Legislature passed the first of three interim budgets for the fiscal year that began on July 1. I voted yes on the passage of the budget because I believe it contains significant investments in critical areas that either combat the COVID-19 pandemic directly, support those working on the front-lines, or provide aid to those impacted by it. That being said, I had urged Governor Baker and his Administration to carefully review the budget, as I believed it contained several troubling pieces that should either be sent back with amendments or vetoed outright, which the Governor has now done so. The Legislature will no doubt take up many of these amendments and vetoes in the coming days.
The FY21 budget provides cities and towns with $5.28 billion in Chapter 70 education aid, an increase of $107.6 million, along with $1.129 billion in Unrestricted General Government Assistance (UGGA) to support essential municipal services. The budget also contains additional education support by funding the Special Education Circuit Breaker at $345 million, charter school reimbursements at $117 million, regional school transportation at $82 million, and homeless student transportation at $13 million. Shrewsbury will receive $20,068,648 in Chapter 70 education aid and $2,958,042 in unrestricted state aid. Westborough will receive $8,310,848 in Chapter 70 education aid and $1,230,539 in unrestricted state aid.

Notably, the final budget contains $30 million in emergency food assistance funding (MEFAP) and $13 million for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) to help address food insecurity during the pandemic. According to a report released by Feeding America on October 30, the hunger rate in Massachusetts has increased by 59% since 2018, with 1 in 5 children now living in a food-insecure household. As a Co-founder and Co-chair of the Legislature’s Food System Caucus, I worked alongside my colleagues to advocate for these critical safety net programs to help the Commonwealth address the dramatic rise in food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the economy.

Another successful budget initiative I helped spearhead, working aside my colleagues Representative Denise Garlick and Senator Jo Comerford, was funding for local public health. The FY21 budget contains $10M for local boards of health and $1.7M for the Statewide Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) program. The SAPHE legislation, H4503, filed by Representative Garlick and myself, was signed into law by Governor Baker in April and the $1.7M in budget funding will help strengthen the Commonwealth’s local public health system by ensuring all members of the local public health workforce have access to essential training, increasing service sharing across municipalities, and moving the Commonwealth toward national standards for a 21st century public health system. The $10M allocated for boards of health is a new line item of dedicated funding and recognizes the investments needed for local public health on the front-lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Police Reform: The House and Senate passed compromise police reform legislation on December 1st. I voted against the bill alongside a bipartisan group of 67 of my colleagues in the House. The bill, Senate Bill 2963, An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth, was approved by the House of Representatives on a vote of 92-67 and also approved in the Senate the same day on a vote of 28-12. The police reform legislation represents a compromise between two earlier versions of the bill that were approved by the House and Senate in July and negotiated by a six-member conference committee over the last four months. The committee’s report was filed just one day before a vote was taken, leaving us members little time to review the 129-page document. 

I have concerns that the bill goes well beyond the core policing reforms endorsed by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, reforms which I strongly support. 
Governor Baker announced on December 10th that he does not plan on signing the version of the bill passed by the Legislature and he returned it to us with some changes. While he stated that he is willing to make a number of compromises, including on qualified immunity and a civilian-controlled licensing board, he will not sign a bill that limits the use of facial recognition technology or establishes a civilian-controlled police training commission, as he feels that the training of police should be controlled by law enforcement and remain under the purview of the executive branch. The Legislature will have until the end of session (which ends Tuesday, January 5th) to review and vote on the bill that Governor Baker returns to us. If we do not pass a bill by the end of this session, the entire process will have to start anew next session. 

Public Health Legislation: H.5045/S.2922, An Act to accelerate equity and effectiveness of our local and regional public health system (SAPHE 2.0): My colleagues Denise Garlick (D-Needham), Senator Comerford (D-Amherst), and I co-filed a bill (SAPHE 2.0) to strengthen the Commonwealth’s local public health system and build on the first local public health bill (SAPHE 1.0) that we filed and succeeded in getting signed into law this spring. The SAPHE movement as a whole is based on the findings of the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health, of which I was a member and published its final report in the summer of 2019. 

SAPHE 2.0 would direct the Department of Public Health to establish minimum public health standards, set a clear timeline for communities to reach said standards, dedicate state funding to support communities in reaching benchmarks, and create a uniform data collection and reporting system. Both SAPHE 1.0 and SAPHE 2.0 have received significant support in the Legislature and SAPHE 2.0 had a public hearing in the Joint Committee on Public Health, on which I serve as the Ranking Minority Member, on November 6th. I testified at the Hearing alongside Representative Garlick. The House bill has since been reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Public Health to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. The Senate version of the bill was reported favorably to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. 

We held a virtual launch event for SAPHE 2.0 on September 30th that included the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA), Representative Garlick, Senator Comerford, and a broad coalition of local officials and public health leaders, including Shrewsbury Town Manager Kevin Mizikar. I am proud to be a lead sponsor of this legislation in the House. The effort to support the Commonwealth’s local public health systems is more critical now than ever due to the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to all advocates who continue to make the SAPHE movement a reality. More information can be found here. 
Christopher Roy Firefighter Survivor Benefits: On November 10th, Governor Baker signed a bill into law that I co-filed alongside my colleagues Representative John Mahoney and Senator Moore to provide Ava Roy, the daughter of fallen Worcester firefighter Christopher Roy, with her father’s pension until she turns 26. Shrewsbury resident Christopher Roy died fighting a fire in 2018 and was a single father to Ava, then 9 years old. 

Retroactive Unemployment Benefits: On October 25th, Governor Baker signed Senate Bill 2934 into law, which provided additional unemployment benefit funds to nearly 17,000 MA residents who were previously ineligible for the extra $300/week in federal benefits that ran for six weeks at the end of this summer - totaling $1,800 in extra benefits for each eligible person. 

Letter to the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC): Representative Mark Cusack and I led an initiative to draft and send a letter, which 17 of our colleagues signed, to the CCC expressing opposition to the proposed wholesale delivery license that would allow operators to buy marijuana wholesale, store it, and deliver it to customers at-home. We believe the proposed wholesale delivery license overstepped what was provided for in the enabling legislation, which we believe was intended only to link the delivery of marijuana to customers directly from retail establishments. 

Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators:  As a board member of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators I have spent significant time this fall on several initiatives. For the third year in a row, I led the sub-committee to select our Commissioners to serve on the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. I am also leading our Transition Committee focused on updating our process to plan and select strategic and legislative priorities for the next legislative session. Finally, along with my colleague Rep. Christine Barber, I am co-leading a search for our new Executive Director, a role I also served in in 2018. I greatly enjoy my time serving in the bicameral, bipartisan Caucus. 
Food System Caucus
My work as a Co-Chair of the Food System Caucus continues be a significant focus of my time, with food insecurity levels in Massachusetts still rising and impacting all corners of the Commonwealth. 

MA Food System Collaborative Briefing: On December 4th I joined a briefing hosted by the MA Food System Collaborative for the new members of the Legislature who were elected last month. I spoke about the work of the Food System Caucus in advancing food system issues and reducing food insecurity in the Commonwealth and encouraged all new legislators to join the Caucus. All of the work we do has been made even more critical by the pandemic and the financial toll it is taking on people and families. 

MA Food Policy Council Meeting: On November 12th, I updated the MA Food Policy Council alongside my colleague Senator Comerford on the work of the Food System Caucus and heard updates from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources, the MA Food System Collaborative, and other food system stakeholders and advocates on the status of food policy, insecurity, and supply systems in the Commonwealth.

Perspectives on Resiliency and Recovery Briefing: The Food System Caucus hosted a legislative briefing on November 9th on the recently published report by the MA Food System Collaborative Massachusetts’ Local Food System: Perspectives on Resilience and Recovery. The report presents a set of challenges, opportunities, and recommendations toward an equitable, sustainable, and resilient local food system for the Commonwealth. The event was an opportunity for legislators and staff to hear from local food system stakeholders about priorities as we look to develop bills for next session. Speakers included Winton Pitcoff, Director of the MA Food System Collaborative, Mackenzie May, Director of Central Mass Grown, Pat Spence, President of the Urban Farming Institute, and John Waite, Executive Director of the Franklin County CDC/Western Mass Food Processing Center. 

Hunger Action Month: September is recognized nationally as Hunger Action Month every year, and the Food System Caucus (FSC) raised awareness of food insecurity and heightened our advocacy through several methods of outreach. First, the FSC ran a Twitter series throughout September highlighting the work of Caucus members on work they had undertaken to reduce food insecurity and fortify the Commonwealth’s food system. We also filmed a Co-Chair Hunger Action Month video, which streamed live on Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness and share with the public what the FSC has been up to recently, particularly in response to COVID-19. Finally, we held a Food Security Briefing for the Legislature with updates from Project Bread, the MA Food System Collaborative, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), the Food Bank of Western Mass, and the Northeast Seafood Coalition on how COVID-19 has impacted issues of food in the Commonwealth and how each organization was responding.
Local Funding
Road and Bridge Funding: Westborough received a $1.282M MassWorks grant for a new signalized intersection at West Park Drive Extension and Flanders Road, among other improvements in this priority development area to increase access to local businesses, address traffic flow concerns, and provide a connection for the growing network of multi-use trails in the region. 

Shrewsbury received $63,514.87 to improve the safety of two crosswalks by installing flashing beacons and purchasing bike racks for Town Hall and the Senior Center as part of MassDOT’s Shared Streets and Spaces grant program. 

Westborough received $79,500 in MassDOT funding to create safe and ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps at two intersections that provide important connections to multiple schools, public tennis courts and playing fields, three churches, Town Hall, the public library, and stores.

Westborough received $41,000 for culvert replacement from the Baker-Polito Administration based on the recommendations of the Massachusetts Culverts and Small Bridges Working Group. 

Public Safety Funding: Shrewsbury received a $16,680 Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for a subscription for “See It, Send it” App, Audio Recorders, and Laser Mapping System to support our law enforcement. 

Westborough received a $39,530 Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant with a request to purchase body-worn cameras for the Westborough Police Department. 

Shrewsbury received a $24,957 grant as part of $3.2 million in federal grant funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The funds will be distributed to 161 local police departments across the Commonwealth to reduce vehicle crashes, injuries, losses of life, and the resulting economic costs.

The Baker-Polito Administration awarded Shrewsbury Fire Department received $34,000 for P25 Compliant Radio Equipment and the Westborough Fire Department received $49,991 for PPE, overtime, and sanitation services. 

Climate Change/Energy/Environment Funding: Westborough received $153,876 in a Green Communities Competitive Grant to be used for increasing municipal energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact by upgrading to LED lighting in some municipal buildings, including Armstrong Elementary School, Town Hall, the Senior Center and the Fire Station and providing supplemental funding for two hybrid police cruisers. These investments in green energy are predicted to save approximately $25,900/year.

Shrewsbury received $18,000 as part of the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program and Westborough received a Small-Scale Initiatives Grant of $1,250. The funds are intended to help communities maximize their recycling, composting, and waste reduction programs.

Education/Workforce Development Funding: Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School received $358,741 in Skills Capital Grant funding from the Baker-Polito Administration to purchase healthcare equipment to create several simulation labs to train students and adult learners with the skills needed for entry-level jobs in healthcare. Skills Capital Grants are competitive grants awarded to educational institutions across the Commonwealth to update equipment and expand student enrollment in programs that provide career education. 
Briefings & Forums
Allston I-90 Project Site Tour: On October 15th I joined some of my colleagues from the MetroWest and Central Mass regions to take a tour of the site for the proposed Allston I-90 Multimodal project. This critically important project will replace the deteriorating viaduct and expand multimodal transportation; however, it has the potential to negatively impact commuters over the course of the entire 10 years during which construction is expected to take place. I serve on the Allston Multimodal Project Task Force and continue to partner with my colleagues in the Legislature to advocate to MassDOT and all involved parties to mitigate impacts to commuters as much as possible. More information on the project can be found here
495/MetroWest Partnership: On December 9th, the 495/MetroWest Partnership hosted a panel discussion on COVID-19’s impact on businesses in our region. Panelists Lisa Churchill of Blush Bouquets, George Coutros of Sanofi US, Ed Cuthbertson of Bass Pro Shops, Brian Earley of Patriot Place, Katie Quinn of Mullahy's Cheese Shop, and Austin O'Connor of the Briar Group talked about the variety of challenges their businesses and sectors have faced due to the pandemic. While the past 9 months have been devastating, panelists spoke of how partnerships and innovation have helped them survive and how they have great hope for the future. Shrewsbury Assistant Town Manager Kristen Las helped moderate and posed questions. Watch the full panel here

UMass Medical School: UMass Medical School hosted a briefing on December 8th for members of the Central Mass and MetroWest legislative caucuses. Updates were shared on activity on campus, COVID-related research, and future initiatives. Thank you to Chancellor Michael Collins and Provost Terence Flotte for hosting the informative briefing. We are so fortunate to have such a prominent, world-class medical school in Central MA.

MBTA Forging Ahead: On December 2nd I joined my colleagues for a briefing from the MBTA on the Forging Ahead initiative. The MBTA has experienced historically low ridership levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic and suffered a corresponding loss of revenue. The MBTA proposed significant service changes, including a decrease in commuter rail trains, and stopping weekend and late night service, to adapt to the changing landscape but at the December Fiscal Management Control Board meeting the Board adopted less drastic cutbacks while the federal government debates additional assistance and the impact of the vaccine roll-out on people returning to work occurs. You can learn more about Forging Ahead here

A reminder that as of December 14th, the commuter rail will temporarily operate on a reduced schedule because of low employee availability due to COVID-19. Regular train service across Massachusetts includes 541 daily trains, but as of the 14th, 246 trains will operate each day during the week. Weekend trains will continue to operate on a regular schedule. 

Acceler-8 I-90 Project Briefing: On October 22nd, MassDOT briefed legislators on the upcoming Southborough-Westborough Acceler-8 I-90 Bridge Replacements Project, which will take place over 8 weekends in the summer of 2021. The project will use the ABC (accelerated bridge construction) method, which includes the use of precast elements and significantly reduces the amount of time a bridge replacement would normally take. The superstructures of 8 bridges will be replaced and/or upgraded over 8 weekends (1 bridge each weekend) beginning in June 2021. Lane closures are expected, but since construction each weekend won’t begin until Friday after rush hour and will end by 5am Monday morning, significant delays and impacts to traffic aren’t predicted. A noise mitigation plan is also in place to respect the peace of residents who live near the bridges as much as possible. More information can be found here

Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) Legislative Briefing: QCC students, staff, and trustees held a briefing for legislators on October 16th to update us on the work being done to enable students to continue their studies during the pandemic and the strong support given to students who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. I was very pleased and impressed to see the effort made at QCC to support students! 
Community Events & Recognitions
Veterans Day: On Veterans Day I joined town officials and Boy and Girl Scouts in Shrewsbury to honor our veterans in a drive-by “Salute to Veterans” at the Major Howard Beal School and WWI Monument. I was also honored to be a part of the online observance that the Westborough Veteran’s Advisory Board and Westborough TV created to show our appreciation and gratitude to all who have selflessly served our nation.
Sergeant Jonathan Kalagher, Medal of Valor: While we could not be present at the outdoor ceremony due to being in formal session, members of the Westborough delegation were very pleased that Sergeant Jonathan Kalagher was awarded with a Medal of Valor. Sergeant Kalagher heroically saved the life of a stabbing victim last year, demonstrating incredible bravery under extreme pressure. We are so grateful to him and thank him for serving the community.

Shrewsbury Girl Scouts: I spoke with a group of Shrewsbury 6th grade Girl Scouts on November 1st about my experience in state government and explained how state government works and about Women’s Suffrage to help them fulfill a badge requirement. Thank you to Troop Leader Meg McArdle for the invitation to join the group! 

Bill Linnane’s 80th Birthday Drive-by: On October 31st I joined Reps. Dykema and Gregoire and fellow community members to celebrate Bill’s birthday in a surprise drive-by parade on his street. Thank you to the Linnane family and to Shelby Marshall for helping organize this special event and allowing us to show Bill how much we appreciate his contributions to our community by honoring him on his birthday. 
Westborough Girl Scouts: I joined Representative Dykema (D-Holliston) and Representative Gregoire (D-Marlborough) on October 22nd to talk about our role as State Representatives with Westborough 5th grade girl scouts. We also discussed the Suffrage Movement and our work to pass legislation to create a Women’s Rights History Trail in the Commonwealth. It was a fun and inspiring virtual event. Thank you to Troop Leader Sara Dullea for inviting us! 

Eagle Scout: Congratulations to Aaron Lowy of Shrewsbury Boy Scout Troop 4 for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout! Aaron organized “Backpacks for the Homeless” as part of his Eagle Scout service project. The backpacks also included a list of resources and personal hygiene items and were distributed to individuals in need at homeless shelters in Worcester.

Massachusetts Book Awards: Kerri Greenidge of Westborough received an Honors in Nonfiction award at the 20th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards for her book Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter, a portrait of a Boston newspaperman whose activism Ms. Greenidge credits with paving the way for civil rights leaders of the 20th century. Congratulations Kerri! 
Shrewsbury Housing Authority: I was pleased to nominate Maria Smith to serve as the Governor’s appointee Commissioner on the Shrewsbury Housing Authority. Gayle Vigeant recently stepped down after her five years of service as the Governor’s appointee. Thank you Gayle for your dedicated service to residents of Shrewsbury’s public housing and best of luck to Maria in her new role!
Conversations with Hannah: I recorded a Special Edition Episode of Conversations with Hannah in late September on the upcoming elections. In the first part of the show, I spoke with Shrewsbury Town Clerk Sandy Wright to discuss expanded voting options. In the second portion, I spoke with fellow members of Community Supporters for Public Safety, including Chuck Pratt (recently retired Shrewsbury Police Officer) and Dave Hodgerney (retired Shrewsbury Firefighter) about the question before voters to approve a new police station and public safety emergency communication system. Thank you to Shrewsbury voters for approving the ballot question! View this episode, as well as past episodes, here

Westborough Board of Selectmen: My colleagues Representative Dykema, Representative Gregoire, Senator Eldridge and I joined the Westborough Board of Selectmen meeting on September 22nd to discuss the status of the state budget, local bills, and transportation issues. It was a great opportunity to hear directly from the Board about priority issues in Westborough and share the work of the delegation in the Legislature. 

9/11 Commemoration: I joined the Shrewsbury Fire Department on 9/11 for a remembrance ceremony to honor the selfless service and sacrifice of our first responders and pay respect to all life lost on that terrible day. 

MBI StartUp & ScaleUp Center Virtual Ribbon Cutting: On August 25th, the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives’ (MBI) StartUp & ScaleUp Center virtual ribbon-cutting event took place via Zoom. The new MBI facility offers 18 StartUp Center private labs for new companies and an additional 10 ScaleUp center suites for growing companies, which will fuel the growth of life science business in Central Mass. 

Cool Science Worcester Virtual Art Exhibition Celebration: Cool Science Worcester held a Virtual Art Exhibition zoom event in late August, and four Oak Middle School students - Rachael, Veer, Anika, and Carly - were recognized as Cool Science honorees. Cool Science is a collaborative effort between several colleges and universities, including UMass, to improve public understanding of climate science through art. Rachael and Veer’s artwork was chosen to be displayed on Worcester buses, and Anika and Carly were selected as runners-up. Congratulations to these four students and thanks to Cool Science for providing mentorship and a platform.
Speaking Engagements
MassBio Policy-Makers Live: On November 16th, I joined MassBio President & CEO Bob Coughlin to speak on a 1-hour virtual webinar streamed on YouTube live. We discussed a variety of public health topics, including two bills I filed this session - one to create a Rare Disease Advisory Council in the Commonwealth and another to increase access to cancer clinical trials. Massachusetts continues to be a national leader in the life sciences industry, which is evident in the fact that the two companies making headlines for having a 90% plus effective COVID-19 vaccine are both based in our Commonwealth. Thank you to MassBio for hosting me and thank you most of all to every life science employee in our state for dedicating your days to coming up with medical breakthroughs that will not only improve quality of life for many, but save lives.
Boston College Elect-Her: I spoke on an October 31st panel hosted by Boston College student groups Network of Enlightened Women, College Republicans, and College Democrats. I answered questions posed by the young women to the panel, which included former 4th Congressional candidate Jesse Mermel and two BC women in elected student government roles.

GBH Interview: On October 27th I was interviewed by GBH news on what the Republican party’s interests are in Worcester County and the issues important to us. You can listen to and read an article on the interview here

Hunger to Health Collaboratory Virtual Summit: On October 6th, I participated in a virtual summit with Congressman McGovern and Boston’s Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez entitled “Hunger to Health in COVID and Beyond: Food Policy as Health Policy”. Our panel was moderated by Boston University Associate Dean Harold Cox and focused on the topic of food insecurity, which has grown exponentially in the Commonwealth and across the nation during COVID-19 and was already a major issue before the pandemic. The three of us discussed the importance of awareness surrounding issues of food access as well as efforts undertaken to reduce its prevalence. 
Shrewsbury Rotary Club: On September 14th, I spoke to members of the Shrewsbury Rotary Club about the state of the Commonwealth relative to COVID-19 and my work at the State House. Thank you to the Rotary Club for the invitation!
COVID-19 Response
Current Rates: We are currently experiencing a significant and highly concerning surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth. We recently broke the record for the highest single-day total of positive confirmed cases in the state since the pandemic began. We are clearly in the second surge of the virus. The rise in cases has been reported to be due to an increasing number of people traveling for the holidays, gatherings moving indoors due to the colder weather, and people letting their guard down due to pandemic fatigue. Please continue to do your part by maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying at home whenever possible. The better job we do now at controlling the spread, the less sacrifice and hardship we will all experience.
We have been informed by the Administration that in the spring, public health officials believe only 1 out of every 15 cases of COVID-19 was confirmed through testing. They currently believe that ratio to be closer to 1 in 5 cases. While this doesn’t change the fact we are experiencing higher confirmed case numbers than ever before, it still is a positive that we are now detecting more cases through better testing. The Administration has also shared that 20-30% of the confirmed positive cases in the Spring were in people over age 70, while now only about 8% of confirmed cases are in people over 70. The dashboard currently shows that the largest confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in the 20-29 age group, followed closely by 0-19 and 30-39. View the COVID-19 dashboard, updated daily around 5pm, here
Re-Opening: On December 8th, Governor Baker announced a state-wide rollback of re-opening that took effect on December 13th, in response to the ongoing virus surge and rising hospitalizations. The entire Commonwealth must now follow Phase 3, Step 1 protocols (instead of Phase 3, Step 2) unless a municipality has enacted stricter guidelines of their own. 

Updated restrictions on gatherings and capacities: 
  • Outdoor gatherings at event venues are limited to no more than 50 people
  • Hosts of outdoor gatherings of greater than 25 people are required to provide advance notice of the gathering to their local board of health
  • Indoor theaters and performance venues and higher contact indoor recreation businesses are required to close to the public
  • Outdoor theaters and performance venues are limited to 25% capacity, and no more than 50 people

In all communities, capacity is reduced from 50% to 40% for the following sectors:
  • Arcades/Indoor and Outdoor Recreational Businesses
  • Driving and Flight Schools
  • Gyms/Health Clubs
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Retail
  • Offices
  • Places of Worship
  • Lodging (common areas)
  • Golf facilities
  • Movie Theaters (Maximum 50 people per theater)
This new capacity limit does not apply to sectors that do not currently have a percentage-based capacity limit, including restaurants, laboratories, and close contact personal services.

Updated restaurant restrictions:
  • Patrons must wear masks at all times except when eating and drinking;
  • Restaurants must seat no more than six patrons per table;
  • Restaurants must impose a 90-minute time limit on tables;
  • Musical performances at restaurants will no longer be permitted;
  • Food court seating must be closed in malls;
  • Customers are encouraged to dine only with members of the same household.

Updated workplace and gym restrictions: 
  • In offices, employees must wear masks at their place of work when not in their own workspace and alone;
  • Employers are encouraged to close or limit the use of break rooms;
  • Patrons must wear masks at all times in gyms.

The revised gathering order can be found here, as well as the rollback order here.

Vaccines: On December 4th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced they had submitted the Commonwealth’s initial vaccine order to the CDC and this week our vaccination plan began. The federal government allocated the Commonwealth 59,475 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for this first shipment that is part of 300,000 doses the CDC is expected to send to MA by the end of December. The first allotment of 300,000 vaccines will be for the first dose of a two dose regimen. In anticipation of the federal government issuing emergency use authorizations for additional vaccines, the Administration has been working with the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group to prepare for a safe, equitable distribution based on CDC guidance. 

On December 9th, Governor Baker announced an approximate timeline for vaccine distribution, split into three main categories: 
You can learn more here
Vaccine Scams: With COVID vaccines beginning to roll out across Massachusetts, there are already potential scams targeting residents. Please be very suspect of any call, text, email, or someone knocking on your door claiming early access to the vaccine. The Federal Trade Commission has produced some helpful tips and info that can be found here.
Field Hospitals: The Baker-Polito Administration decided to stand up field hospitals in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases as done last spring when the virus first hit the Commonwealth. The first of the field hospitals was stood up by the National Guard in Worcester at the DCU Center. It was the first to re-open in the state since all field hospitals closed this past June when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations slowed. The DCU center began accepting patients the first week of December to reduce strain on our hospitals. A second field hospital is being built in Lowell. A reminder that field hospitals are precautionary but vitally important to avoid a healthcare and humanitarian crisis should our hospitals be unable to adequately attend to patients. 

Partnerships for Recovery: The Baker-Polito Administration announced on October 22nd a $774M economic recovery plan called Partnerships for Recovery, which will focus on five main points: getting people back to work, supporting small business, revitalizing downtowns, supporting housing equity and stability, and fostering innovation. The initiative began by directing $115M to small businesses and Main Streets. Partnerships for Recovery funding will come from multiple sources, both existing and proposed, and will total $774M. Find more information here

MERT grants: The Baker-Polito Administration awarded $6.5M in Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (MERT) grants this fall to thirteen Commonwealth businesses. The grant funding will help the businesses produce much-needed products to respond to COVID-19, including masks, hand sanitizer, and gowns, as well as boost testing. Industrial Polymers and Chemicals, Inc (IPAC) in Shrewsbury was awarded $150,000, with $8,000 for workforce training, as part of this round of funding. IPAC manufactures PPE and the new funding will allow them to purchase a second CNC cutting machine to produce isolation gowns. A total of $16.2M has been awarded since the MERT program was launched in April 2020, including $7.2M to support the development of protective masks, $3.2M for COVID-19 testing, $3.2M for gowns, $1.4M for ventilators, $630,000 for testing of PPE, $341,000 for hand sanitizer, and $257,000 for support of materials/supply chain. 

Eviction Diversion Initiative: The Baker-Polito Administration announced on October 12th the launch of the $171M Eviction Diversion Initiative, designed to protect tenants from eviction as well as provide financial support to landlords as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on and the Commonwealth’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium expired in mid-October. The Initiative includes the following support for tenants and landlords: $100M to expand the Residential Assistance to Families in Transition (RAFT) program, $48.7M to HomeBASE and other rapid rehousing programs, $12.3M for tenant and landlord legal representation and community mediation, $6.5M for Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs), and $3.8M for the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP). The CDC established a ban on evictions for non-payment for eligible tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. The CDC moratorium took effect when the Commonwealth’s expired, and is currently scheduled to last through December. More information on the Commonwealth’s Eviction Diversion Initiative can be found here and the CDC declaration form can be found here

Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program: The Baker-Polito Administration announced on November 24th that a fifth round of funding was awarded under the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program (FSIG). The fifth round distributed $4.7M to 54 local food producers. The FSIG was created out of recommendations made to the Administration by the COVID-19 Command Center’s Food Security Task Force, which I serve on alongside my colleague and fellow Food System Caucus Co-Chair Senator Comerford. The FSIG supports the Commonwealth’s food system and works to reduce food insecurity by providing grant money to enhance the infrastructure of local businesses such as farms and fisheries and ensure a more resilient food supply chain. 

Tax Relief: The Baker-Polito Administration & Legislative Leadership announced on September 15th that administrative tax relief measures for small businesses financially injured by the pandemic have been extended. The regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes due for small businesses from March 2020 through April 2021 will now be due in May 2021. Businesses that collected less than $150,000 in regular sales in addition to meals taxes in the 12-month period ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and businesses that collected less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the 12-month period ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief from room occupancy taxes. Businesses will not face any penalties or interest during the time of extension.

Mandatory Flu Vaccine for Students: In August, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that the influenza vaccine will be mandatory for all students in the Commonwealth this school year. I have heard from parents who are concerned that the vaccine is required, many of whom choose to vaccinate their children and others who do not for various reasons including the fact that the vaccine efficacy varies year to year. I joined with members of the Republican caucus in writing to Secretary Sudders and Commissioner Bharel seeking additional information and to express concerns relative to the process. As a mom to a child who has a suppressed immune system which makes her very susceptible, our family is always among the first to get vaccinated each year and have all already done so this year. However, I recognize and respect that many families are concerned. The religious and medical exemptions remain for the mandate that begins at the end of the month.

MassGrown Exchange Platform: On August 10th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of the MassGrown Exchange Platform, which connects Commonwealth agriculture and seafood businesses directly to buyers. MassGrown Exchange was developed to help the MA food industry, which has been hard-hit by the pandemic, and reduce food insecurity by setting up channels between local producers and food banks. The Platform is the result of recommendations made to the Administration by the COVID-19 Command Center Food Security Task Force, as well as seafood industry work groups I have participated in with Lieutenant Governor Polito and my colleagues Senator Tarr and Representative Ferrante. Find more information on MassGrown Exchange here. Thank you to the Administration, Ag Commissioner John Lebeaux and all partners in making this Platform a reality. 
Contacting My Office
As a reminder, the State House is closed to the public and my Legislative Aide Anna Darrow and I are working remotely. We are fully accessible via email and we are constantly checking our office voicemail. You can reach our office number at 617-722-2810, my cell number is 617-448-7304, and my email is Hannah.Kane@mahouse.gov. Anna’s email is Anna.Darrow@mahouse.gov and her cell number is 802-373-2294. 
While this email is not exhaustive of all my work, nor all that the Commonwealth is undertaking to battle COVID-19, I hope the information is relevant and helpful. My prior update emails can be found on my website, www.rephannahkane.com in the “Updates from Hannah” section and I will continue to post regular updates each day on my State Representative Facebook page. 
I remain grateful to all workers who go to work each day to help us through our time of crisis, particularly our incredible healthcare workers who are facing difficult, exhausting conditions again with surging capacity in our healthcare system. Please join me in continuing to take every precaution to stop the spread and as always, please do not hesitate to reach out to be if I can be of assistance. 
With sincere gratitude,
Hannah Kane
State Representative
11th Worcester District