As part of the updated essential business list, DPH issued new guidance today around hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals. Based on this new guidance, hotels, motels, and short-term rentals may only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, like front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been otherwise displaced from their residences.
for the Hotel/Motel Guidance.
Field Medical Station Announcement
The Commonwealth, through MEMA, has requested and received approval for a Field Medical Station that will provide additional medical care capacity as the state plans for a surge in cases. The federal Strategic National Stockpile has approved a 250-bed field medical station that will be deployed to the DCU Center in the City of Worcester this week. This temporary facility will be managed by UMass Memorial and staffed by a partnership including the City of Worcester and others. The temporary field medical center will be used to treat lower acuity patients who still need monitoring.
Nursing/Rest Home Program
The Commonwealth is implementing a pilot project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The pilot will operate under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge, and samples will be collected by trained personnel from the Massachusetts National Guard. Prior to this launch, the only way for nursing home residents to be tested would be to be transported to a hospital or physician's office.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
In response to the growing shortage of PPE in hospitals, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the creation of an online portal where individuals and companies can easily donate or sell PPE. Click here
to find out more.
Examples of critically-needed PPE are respirators, facemasks with integrated shields, goggles, protective suits/gowns, headcovers, sanitizing wipes, surgical/procedure masks, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR), gloves, booties/shoe covers, and hand sanitizer. To date, we have received about 17% of the PPE that we have requested from the national stockpile. The federal government has recently committed to sending Massachusetts 1,000 ventilators which will add to our current level of approximately 1,400.
To donate goods for use in the Commonwealth's response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, click here.
To provide information about goods you are looking to sell to support the Commonwealth's COVID-19 response efforts, click here.
The program also provides an entry point for local manufacturers to get more information on adapting their businesses to produce more PPE here in MA.
This effort is led by the newly established Manufacturing Emergency Response Team. Find out more, including the form to fill out if your business is interested in joining the effort, here
Expanding Healthcare Workforce
On March 30th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced additional actions to bolster the state's healthcare workforce:
- Individuals with healthcare experience can register to volunteer through the Administration's new online portal here.
- Expedited onboarding of healthcare volunteers: To support onboarding of healthcare volunteers, DPH issued an order authorizing the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management to perform a CORI check on any volunteer who registered through the volunteer portal without a notarized CORI acknowledgement form. You can learn more here.
- On-demand licensing: DPH issued an order expediting licensing for professionals with licenses in good standing in other states as well as for professionals who have allowed their MA licenses to expire within the past 10 years while in good standing. You can learn more here.
- Expanding care capacity: The Administration's COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with long-term care facilities to establish dedicated skilled nursing facilities to care for COVID-19 patients. The initiative will take pressure off overrun hospitals by offering alternative locations for those who are sick but not in need of intensive care to recover from COVID-19. The transfer of existing residents out of participating facilities will be handled with the utmost care and respect for said residents. The Command Center has worked with the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Worcester to start this effort, which will help bring 300 skilled nursing facility beds online in Central MA. You can learn more here & here.
- Financial relief for care providers: The Governor issued an order allowing EOHHS to provide financial relief to providers of critical health care and social services that serve EOHHS clients, including MassHealth members. Relief can include temporary rate adjustments, supplemental payments, and new rate and payment methodologies. You can learn more here.
- Independent Practice of Nurses: DPH Commissioner Bharel announced an order last week allowing registered nurses who hold authorization from the Board of Registration in Nursing, are in good standing, and who have at least two years of supervised practice experience to engage in prescriptive practice. Nurses with less than 2 years of supervised practice may engage in prescriptive practice with physician oversight as currently required by law. However, this order allows a nurse to work under any physician as long as they both have signed a record. The order applies to all types of nurses except for certified nurse midwives. You can learn more here.
- MA Responds is also offering registration for public health, healthcare and emergency response volunteers here.
MA residents who suspect they might have COVID-19 can now use the Buoy Health COVID-19 Web App, which will help to screen them based on a series of questions and connect them to a healthcare provider via telehealth here.
Major Disaster Declaration
On Saturday, March 28th, President Trump approved the Major Disaster Declaration request that Governor Baker made on March 26th. The request was made through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and will give support and flexibility to Commonwealth communities through increased federal funding. Affected local governments, state agencies, and certain private non-profit organizations statewide will be reimbursed for 75% of their costs associated with response and emergency protective measures. Crisis Counseling Assistance will provide funding for the MA Department of Mental Health to assist individuals and families in recovering from the psychological effects of the COVID-19 outbreak through phone and chat technology.
MEMA will provide webinars and other information about the process of applying for the Public Assistance Program to municipal and state officials and eligible non-profits. More information can be found here.
A Major Disaster Declaration is generally requested when a disaster exceeds the response capabilities of the state and local governments and long-term recovery assistance is needed.
Travel Guidance - Self-quarantine
On March 27th, Governor Baker asked all travelers arriving in MA, beginning on March 27th, to self-quarantine for 14 days as part of a continuing effort to contain COVID-19. MassDOT will distribute flyers at Logan Airport, Worcester Airport, Hanscom Field, South Station, North Station, Back Bay, and Route 128 passenger rail stations and at South Station bus terminal. The message is also being put on electronic billboards and roadside VMS boards state-wide, and the flyers will be posted at I-90 rest areas. Visitors are instructed not to travel to MA if they are displaying symptoms. Healthcare workers, public health workers, public safety workers, transportation workers, and designed essential workers are exempt from this requirement.
While we are still awaiting a detailed breakdown of what funding will flow to Massachusetts from the $2 trillion federal COVID-19 relief bill passed by US Congress and signed by President Trump on Friday, March 27th, members of our congressional delegation have shared that approximately $2.67 billion will be directed to MA in funding to state and local governments and $1 billion to preserve public transit jobs. It has been estimated that MA will gain $32.9 million in homelessness assistance grants, $20.4 million in community development block grants, $60.8 million in Housing and Urban Development emergency solution grants, $45.3 million for child care and early education grants, $10.9 million for low-income heating assistance, $17.2 million to help law enforcement acquire personal protective equipment and other gear, $12.9 million in Centers for Disease Control grants, and $8.3 million in funding to prepare for safe elections.
In addition to the aid sent to MA state and local governments, legislation enacted at the federal level will benefit MA residents in the following ways:
Paid sick leave:
- 2 weeks of paid sick leave for employees quarantined because of or experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19
- 2/3rds pay for sick leave to care for a relative
- Employers receive a payroll tax credit for qualified sick leave wages and family leave paid by an employer in the amount of benefits paid (not to exceed the limits for pay) over the permitted duration
- $1,200 direct cash payments to individual taxpayers who make under $75,000 before starting to phase out and end all together for individuals making over $99,000/year
- $2,400 to married couples with a combined adjusted gross income under $150,000. Reduced checks, on a sliding scale, will go to married couples who earn up to $198,000
- Individuals and families will receive an additional $500/child 17 years old or younger
Stimulus check updates
and timing can be found on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. The page here will be updated as new information is available.
A series of temporary Unemployment Insurance reforms including but not limited to:
- Expansion of eligibility and access to UI for self-employed workers, gig economy workers, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, part time workers, and several other categories of workers who would not normally have access to benefits
- Flat rate of $600/week on top of existing state benefits for qualified applicants, paid for the next four months - this applies to both traditional claimants and newly-eligible claimants
- 13-week extension of unemployment insurance (on top of the state maximum of 26) for a total of 39 weeks
- The increased benefits apply to those currently receiving UI and for some that have recently exhausted their UI
Unemployment benefits for the self-employed and others provided in the federal legislation
are currently unavailable through Unemployment Insurance Online.
The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is awaiting federal guidance regarding the CARES Act's application requirements, business rules, eligibility requirements, exceptions, and technical requirements. Until that guidance is issued, benefits under the CARES Act are not yet available in Massachusetts and claimants may not apply for such benefits through UI Online at this time.
Updates about when CARES Act benefits will be available, and about when and how you should apply for those benefits will be posted
. Please do not apply if you are not otherwise eligible for unemployment until the guidance is issued and the system coded appropriately.
Please see the following link for more information
Unemployment Benefits and How to Apply
The Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law legislation that removes the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits for individuals who have become separated from work as a result of circumstances relating to or resulting from the outbreak of COVID-19 or the effects of the Governor's March 10, 2020 declaration of a State of Emergency.
To help with the increased demand on the unemployment system and the increased workload on its employees, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance is hosting virtual town hall meetings in which attendees will be taken through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim. Town halls will also include a time for questions from claimants across the Commonwealth. I participated in one of these virtual town hall meetings and I found it be very informative and helpful. Sign up information for the virtual town hall is available
Please note they will be offered in multiple languages. There are several sessions set up for this week:
- Wednesday, April 1st 2 PM
- Thursday, April 2nd at 2 PM
- Friday, April 3rd at 2 PM
If you have applied for unemployment assistance and your application had an issue, please make sure that you entered the name of your employer as it is written on your W-2. Many times, the branded name of a business may be different that their actual legal business name on a W-2. The business name you enter must match your W-2, otherwise the system will not locate your employer in the system. This is one of the most common issues and is one that can be easily fixed without waiting for a call from DUA.
Finally, to further help claimants through the process of applying for benefits, specific web page updates have been made that include the latest guidance for employee qualifications and additional resources like contact forms and a COVID-19 specific unemployment claim handbook. You can file a claim and view the handbook
Small Business Assistance
Multiple initiatives are being undertaken to mitigate the devastating effect the COVID-19 outbreak is predicted to have on small businesses.
Paycheck Protection Program
: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce provided
guide and checklist
for small businesses applying for the newly created $349 billion federal emergency loan program. It provides clear information on eligibility, required documents, and loan structures of the program to provide 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans. You can also find good information on the program
The SBA itself doesn't lend you the money, they just "back" the loan that the lender provides. You can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program through any SBA-approved lender. You can check out the SBA's
Lender Match tool
to find a lender.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
: If you're a small business owner and your business has suffered substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing an overview on the application process for their Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. The next one is offered on Tuesday, April 7th from 10am-11:30am, to register for April 7th, click here:
COVID-19 Advisory Board
On March 25th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the creation of the COVID-19 Advisory Board, comprised of a group of medical experts who will support the Response Command Center as the state continues to respond to the virus outbreak. The Response Command Center reports to the Baker-Polito Administration and is the Commonwealth's single point of strategic decision-making and coordination for the Administration's response during this time.
The Advisory Board met for the first time on Wednesday, March 19th and will continue to advise the Response Command Center on matters such as expanding access to testing and planning for medical surge. There are members on the Board from MGH, Wellforce, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. The Advisory Board will formally convene weekly for updates.
REAL ID Enforcement Deadline Delay
The US Department of Homeland Security announced the extension of the REAL ID enforcement deadline beyond the current October 1st, 2020 deadline. The Department determined that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, states require a 12-month delay. The new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1st, 2021. The action comes as DMVs and RMVs across the nation close or restrict access, precluding millions of people from applying for and receiving their REAL ID. Extending the deadline also allows Congress to create and enact changes to expedite the issuance of REAL IDs once the COVID-19 crisis passes.
MA Attorney General Maura Healey has filed an emergency regulation to prohibit price gauging of essential products and services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. There have been widespread reports of inflated prices for goods like hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves as well as temporary personnel in response to the growing demand for such products and services. Shortages have been reported across the country, placing a critical strain on members of the public as well as hospitals and medical facilities that rely on these essential products to protect their medical workers from infection and prevent the spread of disease.
The AG's Consumer Protection Division encourages members of the public to call 617-727-8400 or file a complaint online about unreasonably high prices of consumer goods during this public health emergency. File a complaint
and visit the AG's Office resources page for information about how the office can assist the public during this emergency
AG Healey also filed an emergency regulation designed to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices. The new regulation prohibits creditors from engaging in methods of debt collection that can require people to leave their homes or have in-person contact, including but not limited to filing new lawsuits against MA consumers, visiting their homes or workplaces, or repossessing their cars. It also prohibits debt collection agencies and debt buyers from making unsolicited debt collection telephone calls to consumers.
The AG's Consumer Protection Division encourages members of the public to call 617-727-8400 or file a complaint online if you witness or experience aggressive debt collection or predatory lending during this public health emergency. File a complaint here.
UMass Medical School Accelerated Graduation
Governor Charlie Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, UMass Medical School, and the Commonwealth's three other medical schools have agreed to accelerate the graduation of UMass fourth year School of Medicine students. This will allow an influx of healthcare workers into Commonwealth hospitals to tend to COVID-19 patients. Hospitals are already under strain, and professionals say we have not yet even come close to the peak number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. While the accelerated graduation is voluntary for students, the option could mean an additional 700 new physician caregivers enter the system in time to help with the crisis. The coordinated effort includes Boston University School of Medicine, UMass Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Harvard Medical School. I watched the virtual graduation ceremony held today for UMass Medical School fourth year students and I am grateful for their service in expanding our health care capacity at this critical time.
On all Massachusetts public higher education campuses, most students have vacated their residence halls for the remainder of the semester and will complete their semester classes online. Most private institutions have made similar arrangements. For details on any particular institution, visit the New England Board of Higher Education website
Public and private institutions with residential space available have been explored for use by healthcare personnel and public safety workers. They are also exploring the potential use as satellite medical treatment facilities. The public institutions have done an inventory of dormitory space and provided it to the Department of Higher Education, the Department of Public Health, and MEMA.
The state universities have announced postponement of their campus commencement ceremonies and are exploring alternative dates or virtual ceremonies. UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth, and UMass Lowell have postponed commencement ceremonies. The state universities report no change in the timeline for acceptances and most campuses report that student messages are going out now.
Higher Education Refunds
On March 27th, UMass President Meehan and the chancellors of the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell UMass campuses announced they will adjust room, board, and parking fees in response to the coronavirus-driven closures of residence halls and the transition to online classes. Students should be notified of their cost adjustments by April 17th. Adjustments will be applied to student accounts and students will receive their net balance by direct deposit or check.
Community Legal Aid can advise workers about their rights during the COVID-19 emergency. Workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits and certain types of protected leave. If you've been denied unemployment benefits after you 1) lost your job when the place you worked closed because of COVID-19, 2) had your work hours cut because of COVID-19, or 3) needed to stop working to stay home with kids when their school closed because of COVID-19, you can reach out to Community Legal Aid for help
or by calling 855-252-5342. Community Legal Aid is the free civil legal aid provider for residents of the five counties of Central and Western MA (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester).
Shareholder Meeting Requirements
Governor Baker issued an executive order waiving the requirement that public companies hold annual or special shareholder meetings in person. The order permits public companies to hold these meetings completely by means of remote communication. Read the order here.
Local Food Pantries & Hunger Resources
: Project Bread's food source hotline is the only comprehensive statewide information and referral service in MA for people facing hunger. The hotline is 1-800-377-1292 and more information can be found
Local Food Pantries
: St. Anne's Human Services and the Westborough Food Pantry continue to request the donation of grocery store gift cards that they can provide local residents who need supplemental food assistance.
You can drop off gift cards in the Rectory Mailbox at St. Anne's or mail them to 130 Boston Turnpike Road, Shrewsbury, MA 01545 and you can mail the Westborough Food Pantry at PO Box 502, Westborough, MA 01581 or drop them off gift cards at the Westborough Town Clerk's office at Town Hall.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
The Baker-Polito Administration has issued guidance and a series orders to address needs within our state's behavioral healthcare system as we continue to respond to the pandemic. The Administration's orders range from expansions in telehealth coverage healthcare, professional accreditation procedures and prescriptive practices to updated policies regarding the provision of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. People struggling with mental health and substance abuse challenges are particularly vulnerable during this incredibly stressful period of time and I am grateful for the work of the Administration in helping to ensure that access to behavioral healthcare remains intact.
Below are some links to services that may be of help to you or a loved one:
Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services
Locally we are fortunate to have
Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, a private, non-profit counseling and social services agency that provides a diverse offering of programs and services that help to strengthen and support youth and families. No-one who needs help is turned away, regardless of ability to pay. If you need help, you can reach them at 508-845-6932 or
, or learn more at on their website
SYFS, like so many other non-profits, has been financially decimated by the pandemic. A significant portion of SYFS revenue is generated from generous donations and sponsorships. The annual gala, the largest fundraiser to support their work, had to be canceled this coming May. Please learn more by watching the brief video through the link here and join me in donating to SYFS to help them survive in this critical time of crisis.
You are able to complete the Census
online, by phone, or by mail
. I completed it online two weeks ago and it was very easy and quick.
We can track online how each city or town is doing in completing the census. While overall in Massachusetts 35.2% of the population has completed it, we are performing above that in
t 43.2% and
t 40.7%. Please do your part to complete the census - it is super easy to do online here.
Where to get the most reliable information
For the most up to date case counts in MA, the US, and for general information regarding best practices during this crisis, please visit
There are several ways, in addition to the ones mentioned previously in this email, to stay informed:
News alert text service
Text COVIDMA to 888-777 to receive updates on the state's coronavirus response. Once you register, and public health officials will be able to send short messages and links to information directly to your cell phone.
husetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19. Once you choose a language, dial 26 to access the COVID-19 information line. Other dial in options provide information and referrals about critical resources and needs. Operators are staffing this hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. You can also visit the MA 2-1-1 webpage here
Both Shrewsbury and Westborough are providing regular updates on their websites and FB pages.