As we enter another week of this crisis, now more than a month into what is proving to be one of the more challenging times of many of our lives, I am thinking of you and your families and hoping you are well. COVID-19 has delivered a significant blow to our healthcare system, our economy, and our ability to find comfort in in-person human connection during a tough time.
My daughter Caitlin and I were at Floating Hospital for Children this past week for her every 4 week infusion. We asked Caitlin's nurse Melissa how all the healthcare staff were holding up. Melissa told us to check out the glass wall of hearts sent in by youth and she told us that every time a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 is released from the hospital the song "Beautiful Day" by U2 is played on the loudspeaker across the hospital for all to hear. She said those small gestures help morale enormously and that they do feel the love and gratitude expressed by so many.
As you are aware, the Commonwealth has entered a surge period in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The state has ramped up efforts to slow the spread of the virus and expand the capacity of our healthcare system in an effort to meet the surge levels predicted. Please see the updates below for developments since my last email. As a reminder, all of the past weekly emails can be found on RepHannahKane.com under "Updates from Hannah."
Conversations with Hannah
Last week I recorded a COVID-19 focused show that provides an update on the Commonwealth's response to this devastating pandemic. You can watch the episode here.
Current Cases of COVID-19
As of Saturday, April 18th, there were a total of 36,372 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. 156 new deaths were reported for a sad total of 1,560 deaths. There were 8,062 new tests conducted for a total of 156,806 tests conducted.
Expanded COVID-19 Response Reporting
On April 14th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the expansion of COVID-19 response reporting to include statewide hospital capacity and PPE distribution data, as well as town-by-town data. The reports will be updated daily at 4pm and you can find them
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Distribution
The Baker-Polito Administration has made, and will continue to make, every effort to secure the supplies and PPE - from all possible sources - to support front line workers responding to this unprecedented public health emergency. On April 12th, the Command Center posted for the first time a PPE Distribution Summary accessed through the link above in Response Reporting, that provides the numbers of respirators, masks, gowns, and gloves that have been distributed. The chart also provides a breakdown of distribution by entity and by region and will be updated regularly. As of the most recent update on April 17th, more than 4 million pieces of PPE have been delivered statewide. This includes over 2.4 million gloves, over 377,000 masks from the "AirKraft" shipment, 197,000 gowns, and 437 ventilators.
On April 17th, the Baker-Polito Administration also announced the distribution of approximately 200,000 respirator masks for all local law enforcement officers and firefighters. These FDA-approved respirator masks will be distributed to all local law enforcement officers, including sheriffs and college and university police, starting April 17th through a coordinated effort by the COVID-19 Response Command Center and the MA Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). EMS providers are continuing to receive these types of masks and other pieces of PPE. To facilitate quick distribution of these masks, MEMA is employing a point of distribution (POD) model where communities can pick up their supply of masks at their designated MEMA POD. These POD are open now and have already distributed tens of thousands of masks to first responders in the first few hours of operation.
Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (M-ERT)
The M-ERT is a coordinated response by the Baker-Polito Administration and leading academic and industry stakeholders to support the Commonwealth's manufacturers in their efforts to produce much-needed supplies for front-line workers and the healthcare system. The M-ERT is being launched alongside $10.6 million in new funding to help manufacturers scale their operations to produce PPE and other critical items. Companies can apply for grants through an online form
) for equipment, materials, supplies, workforce training, and other needs. A Review Committee will process applications based on criteria including production timeline and recommend grant awards. In addition to funding, the M-ERT will offer other assistance to manufacturers, including:
- Understanding what PPE and COVID-19 related materials are of highest priority to produce
- Regulatory compliance, including insight into FDA guidance
- Addressing specifications and testing that is necessary, and identifying in-state test centers
- Retraining workers on new production lines and standards
- Sharing design and CAD files for critical items
Support for Healthcare Workforce & Patients
On April 9th, Governor Baker issued three emergency orders to further support the Commonwealth's healthcare workforce and expand its capacity, as well as ensure access to in-patient services for COVID-19 patients. These orders include:
- Easing licensing restrictions for foreign-educated doctors to allow medical practice in the Commonwealth, specifically allowing graduates of international medical schools who have successfully completed at least two years of postgraduate resident medical training in the US to be eligible for licensure in the Commonwealth
- Allowing nursing school graduates and students in their final semesters of nursing programs to practice nursing in advance of receiving a license, provided they are directly supervised by other medical professionals
- Mandating that all insurers cover all medically required costs of COVID-19 treatment in out-of-network hospitals or other medical facilities with no charge to the patient, including co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance payments
Application Portals for Care Sites
In preparation for the expected surge of MA residents who will need medical care and other support due to COVID-19, temporary care sites and long-term care facilities are being stood up statewide. All of these sites having ongoing staffing needs. In addition, existing skilled nursing and long-term care facilities are also in urgent need of staffing support. On April 9th, Secretary Sudders announced the creation of a job portal found
to connect healthcare professionals with these staffing opportunities.
The Command Center also created a Facility Staffing Portal found here
for healthcare professionals to apply for job opportunities at LTC/post-acute sites across the state. There is an urgent need for registered nurses, licensed practical and vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants and patient care technicians, physical therapists and assistants, occupational therapists and assistants, and social workers and activity coordinators. LPN, Associate's Degree RN students in their 3rd or final semester, and 4th BSN students not yet licensed are encouraged to apply as Certified Nursing Assistants/Patient Care Technicians at the post-acute sites. The Command Center is seeking to fill positions immediately. PPE is provided for all workers at long-term care sites. There is temporary housing available for those who are unable to commute daily.
COVID-19 Demographic Data
On April 9th, the Department of Public Health (DPH) issued an order designed to expand COVID-19 demographic reporting data, including race and ethnicity, to address disparities in the virus' impact and support the Commonwealth's COVID-19 response efforts. This order mandates all healthcare providers and labs collect and report complete demographic information of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients. This information is supplied on the daily Response Report.
Over the last several days, there has been an increase in hospitalizations as MA enters its surge period. As of the end of the day on April 14th, there were 17,800 hospital beds statewide. Just over half of those beds are currently available, including just over 6,000 acute care, or non-ICU, beds, approximately 2,500 ICU beds, and approximately 750 beds available at Field Medical Stations at the DCU in Worcester and at the BCEC in Boston. The number of beds at Field Medical Stations will increase as three more sites come online soon in Bourne, Dartmouth, and Lowell. As mentioned at the beginning of this update, at 4pm each day the Command Center will report hospital bed occupancy and availability as reported by MA hospitals.
Boston Convention Center Field Medical Station
On April 9th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced details on a new field medical station at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) in South Boston. In an effort to reduce the strain on the state's healthcare system and area hospitals due to an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases, the Administration worked with the City of Boston and community partners to provide an additional 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients at this new site. Partners Health Care will lead clinical care efforts at the BCEC field medical station, in a collaboration with Boston Health Care for the Homeless called Boston HOPE. The Convention Center site is the latest Field Medical Station to be stood up by the Command Center and its partners in the healthcare community. The facility has begun to admit patients.
Cape Cod Field Medical Station
The Joint Base Cape Cod Field Medical Station supports the Administration's strategy to increase hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients across the Commonwealth through the development of regional medical facilities. Cape Cod Healthcare serves as the Field Hospital's local healthcare partner and will manage the facility, which will house 94 beds and expects to admit patients beginning on Monday, April 20th.
Medical stations are required to set up in facilities of at least 40,000 square feet to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and include beds, supplies, and a cache of medicine for basic care. Alternate medical sites like the Cape Cod Field Medical Station are in place to support existing hospital capacity in the region and do not provide care for walk-in patients.
Hazard Pay for Health Workers
On April 12th, the Commonwealth came to an agreement with the union representing licensed nurses and caregivers working in MA state hospitals and group homes to increase pay by as much as $10/hour for state-employed health workers for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency. The hazard pay will be in effect immediately and will last at least through May 30th, possibly longer. The agreement calls for workers holding a license related to their occupation to receive a $10 increase in their hourly pay, while all other workers will receive a $5/hour pay raise. An additional part of this agreement is the payment of a one-time $500 bonus to eligible workers who have not missed a shift or a regular work-day since Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency on March 10th.
Long Term Care Support
Since the beginning of March, the Commonwealth has distributed 169,000 N95/KN95 masks, 270,000 surgical masks, 43,000 gowns, and 250,000 gloves to nursing homes and senior living facilities. These facilities have received more masks than any other facility type, including hospitals. MA has also contracted with rapid response clinical teams, comprised of clinicians like RNs, CNAs, and EMS technicians that can provide short-term staffing to facilities with immediate needs. The State has also created a long-term care hiring portal, mentioned above, to match applicants with facilities and leverages the MA Responds volunteer portal to recruit staff. MA has contracted with a firm that specializes in nursing home crisis management to provide facilities with on-site operational assistance to help with staffing, vendors, implementing infection control measures, creating COVID-19 wings/units, and other related issues. These specialists can be deployed to multiple facilities at any given time. Finally, MA has committed $130 million in funding to these homes: $50 million in MassHealth supplemental payments to nursing facilities as part of the provider financial stabilization package announced in early April, $50 million through an additional 15% MassHealth rate increase for nursing homes that stand up COVID-19 isolation wings in their facilities, and $30 million to stand up dedicated COVID-19 skilled nursing facilities.
Established by the Baker-Polito Administration, the Nursing Home Family Resource Line is a dedicated phone line to connect family members of nursing home and rest home residents and assisted living residences with the information and resources they need. The Nursing Home Family Resource Line is staffed from 9am-5pm 7 days/week. It has handled over 1,000 calls as of April 14th and can be reached at 617-660-5399.
The House Chair of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, Representative Ruth Balser, has filed House Bill 4635, which if enacted would mandate daily COVID-19 reports on case and death counts from nursing homes, elder housing, and assisted living facilities. Under the legislation, the Department of Public Health (DPH) would also be required to make weekly reports to lawmakers on COVID-19 cases and deaths in these facilities, plus demographic data.
Expansion of Long-Term Care Mobile Testing Program
On April 9th, Secretary Sudders announced the expansion of the highly successful Mobile Testing Program that was launched on March 31st. The National Guard team supporting the program has increased to 250 personnel, and onsite testing was expanded to include Assisted Living Residences throughout MA, including Department of Developmental Services (DDS) group homes. Another important change in the program is that facilities can now request to receive test kits to perform sample collection, rather than having National Guard specialists perform the testing onsite. The program can now test both symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and staff at nursing homes, rest homes, Assisted Living Residences, and DDS group homes. As of April 15th, a total of 5,883 tests had been completed throughout 279 sites and 10,995 test kits had been sent throughout 103 facilities.
Grocery Store Worker Priority Testing
The Baker-Polito Administration and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security have expanded access to the free, priority COVID-19 testing sites for first responders to include grocery store and supermarket workers. Beginning April 11th, those who provide critical access to food and other necessities may schedule an appointment to receive COVID-19 testing at the sites located at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and the Big E Fairgrounds in West Springfield. All appointments must be made in advance by the worker's supervisor or manager, and personnel do not need to be symptomatic to be eligible.
MA National Guard Activation
On April 10th, the Baker-Polito Administration authorized the activation of an additional 3,000 military personnel of the MA National Guard to support the Commonwealth's COVID-19 response. This order raises the total authorization to up to 5,000 members statewide, who may be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties. Local cities, towns, and state agencies can submit requests for support through MEMA.
573,000 MA residents have applied for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the crisis, including 103,000 last week, compared to 139,647 a week earlier. Typical volume is between 7,000-10,000 applications/week. As of April 16th, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is paying unemployment compensation to over 315,000 MA residents. DUA has dramatically increased its call center staff and, as of April 16th, had made over 115,000 calls to residents. DUA has also held over 25 virtual town halls in both English and Spanish to guide people through the application process. Over 175,000 residents have attended online as of April 16th. As of last week, claimants are receiving an additional $600 on top of their existing benefit due to the implementation of the federal CARES Act benefit. The Administration continues to make progress in building a technological infrastructure that will allow for processing of unemployment claims by workers not traditionally covered by the unemployment system, such as the self-employed and gig economy workers. The system is being refined and tested so that it can be launched as soon as possible. The most recent prediction has it coming online around the end of the month at the latest. See details on additional CARES Act implementation below.
CARES Act Unemployment Benefit Implementation
On April 9th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced details for the initial implementation of federal unemployment benefits in the CARES Act, the federal based COVID-19 relief package. Understanding the great urgency of Commonwealth residents to access these benefits, DUA has issued new guidance to instruct all qualifying residents of what actions they can take now to access CARES Act benefit programs. These new benefits include:
Stay up to date with the most recent developments on these new benefits, including when they will become available, here. An FAQs page about qualifying for the additional programs has also been created, which can be accessed here.
- Retroactive and continuing additional $600/week for regular unemployment compensation for eligible claimants. This program is being implemented now.
- Expanded support for people not traditionally covered in the unemployment system, such as self-employed or gig economy workers. DUA is building a platform to implement this program, which will be available on or around April 30th.
- 13-week extension of benefits for individuals who have exhausted previous unemployment benefits. DUA continues to await federal implementation guidance for this program.
Spanish Language Unemployment Application
The Baker-Polito Administration launched a Spanish language online, mobile-friendly, unemployment benefits application for those who need to apply. The new, secure application for Spanish speakers is available through www.mass.gov/desempleo. DUA will make language applications available in Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese, and additional languages in the coming days. The new Spanish language UI form is the latest effort from the Commonwealth to deliver crucial COVID-19 information to non-English speakers, including:
- COVID-19 text alerts in Spanish. Text COVIDMAESP to 888-777
- Mass.Gov available in 13 different languages, choose the "Select Language" button on the landing page here
- Non-emergency help line (211) available in over 150 languages here
- Department of Public Health fact sheets in multiple languages here
If you have experienced a job change and no longer have health insurance through work, the MA Health Connector is offering an extended enrollment period for uninsured MA residents now through May 25th. Apply here.
Economic Impact Payments - IRS Tax Filings
The IRS portal that allows you to enter your direct deposit information for your Economic Impact Payment (the $1200/person plus $500/kid thing) is open. This is only necessary to do if the IRS does not currently have on file direct deposit information from a tax return filing. Please do NOT click or tap any link to the IRS sent to you via email, instant message, social media, or text, nor should you rely on a search engine result from Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Simply enter
into your internet browser and select an action. There are many nefarious and opportunistic players out there looking to scam people out of their payment.
People who receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance benefits and who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and who have qualifying children under age 17 should go now to the IRS webpage
to enter their information instead of waiting for their automatic $1,200 Economic Impact Payment. By taking these steps to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500/dependent child payment in addition to the $1,200 individual payment. If Social Security beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait to receive their $500/qualifying child.
The same guidance applies to SSI recipients, especially those who have qualifying children under age 17. Any new beneficiaries since January 1st, 2020, of either Social Security or SSI benefits, who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, will also need to go to the IRS website to enter their information.
Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability beneficiaries who do not have qualifying children under age 17 do not need to take any action with the IRS as they will automatically receive the $1,200 economic impact payment directly from the IRS as long as they received an SSA- 1099 for 2019.
CARES Act Loans
On April 16th, Governor Baker announced MA businesses have already received more than $2 billion through the Small Business Administration loan programs supplemented through the CARES Act and urged federal lawmakers to inject the funds with more money as they are depleted. US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Carranza said that by Wednesday, April 15th, the SBA processed more than 14 years' worth of loans in less than 14 days. The SBA announced on April 16th that the Paycheck Protection Program will not be accepting any more applications for the time being, as they have spent the entirety of the $349 billion allocated for the PPP. The federal government is currently working on additional legislation to add to these funds.
Joint Ways and Means Economic Outlook Hearing
On April 14th, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Ways and Means, of which I am a member, held a three hour long virtual hearing with economic analysts who offered their assessment of the financial and economic impact of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. An overall theme from the hearing is that it is very difficult to have a clear understanding of how the economy will rebound, as there is not enough of an understanding of how the public health crisis itself will play out. The MA Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) sent a news release to legislators providing an understanding of the revised tax revenue forecast for FY21 and an updated assessment of FY2020. The MTF's key takeaways:
- FY 2021: MTF revised its FY 2021 tax revenue forecast, projecting a decline of $4.4 billion or 14.1% from the January 2020 benchmark. The forecast assumes that new virus cases peak in April, abate in June, and economic re-engagement can begin in July. Massive layoffs of 570,000 in Q4 FY 2020, nearly half of which are from lower-income workers in the leisure and hospitality sector, will push the unemployment rate to nearly 18%.
- FY 2020: At the outset of the pandemic, MTF outlined for decision-makers a set of potential scenarios to consider with a tax shortfall range of between $500 million and $1 billion as well as outlined some of the key non-tax revenue sources that will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, estimating at least another $100 million in revenue shortfall from those sources.
Several additional take-aways from the hearing:
- A negative 3% growth is being forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the coming year - a much larger contraction than the Great Recession.
- Coastal states are more vulnerable to the public health crisis due to a variety of factors, including exposure to international travelers, density, tourism, migration, and age of population. This complicates the recovery period from both a public health and an economic perspective.
- There are several different recovery models that are described by their alphabet letter shape: U, V, W, and L. Many economists think the letter W is most indicative of the recovery pattern, meaning that there may be several rolling waves in which we alternate between conditions that allow the lessening of restrictions and then a return to them. This pattern would continue until a vaccine could be widely-administered or herd immunity achieved, which would require testing on levels not currently available.
- Moody's Analytics indicates that MA is in a better position than other states given the State's Rainy-Day Fund, which has grown substantially in the last 5 years to over $3.5 billion. Even considering this, however, MA faces a significant challenge.
- The Lottery has been severely impacted by the fact the state cannot sell online and does not accept cashless payments.
There is still no clear timeline on when the House will prepare and debate the FY21 budget. When we do so, it will be a difficult budget given the projection of about $4 billion, or 15%, less than previously anticipated for use in the FY2021 budget.
MA Joins Post-COVID Multi-state Pact
On April 13th, MA joined a coalition with Northeast neighbors CT, DE, NY, PA, and RI to coordinate how to begin reopening society amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Baker-Polito Administration has made clear time and time again there will be no re-opening until the public health crisis is under control and MA's healthcare system is no longer at risk of reaching capacity, this coalition is an important step forward in beginning to plan for the future. It is testament to the inter-connectedness of the Northeastern state's economies and the necessity of the Governors to work together to respond to this inter-connectedness. The multi-state coalition that MA is now a part of acknowledges re-opening the economy is not a simple switch and involves the weighing of many critical, life-or-death factors that will differ regionally across the entire nation and therefore warrants state, not federal, decision making.
Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures
On Wednesday, April 15th, the House advanced House Bill 4647, a compromise bill to temporarily ban almost all eviction and foreclosure proceedings, shortly after legislators made a breakthrough in negotiations. The Senate agreed to the compromise bill on Thursday, April 16th and the Governor has signed this legislation into law. The House and Senate had established a conference committee almost a week ago due to the lack of consensus on the bill. Under the compromise, landlords cannot terminate tenancy or send notices to quit in cases deemed "non-essential." Courts, which already are not scheduling new hearing to comply with a Trial Court standing order, are banned from accepting new complaints, entering judgements or default judgements, issuing executions, or holding trials for non-emergency eviction processes. A bill summary is below:
- Prohibits landlords of residential dwelling units, for non-essential eviction actions, from terminating tenancies or sending notices to quit
- Prohibits landlords from imposing a late fee for non-payment of rent or furnishing data to a consumer reporting agency if, within 30 days, the tenant provides notice and documentation to the landlord that the non-payment was due to a financial impact form COVID-19
- Allows landlords to utilize last month's rent to pay for expenses if the landlord notifies the tenant in writing
- However, landlords still must provide tenants with the same interest that would have accrued if the landlord had not utilized last month's rent and prohibits landlords from deducting money from the last month's rent for any non-payment of rent
- Prohibits courts from: (1) accepting for filing a writ, summons or complaint; (2) entering a judgment or default judgment for a plaintiff for possession; (3) issuing an execution for possession; (4) denying a stay of execution or a continuance of a summary process case; or (5) scheduling a court event for non-essential eviction actions for residential dwelling or small business premises units
- Tolls the deadline or time for action by parties to a non-essential eviction action
- Prohibits sheriffs and others from enforcing or levying an execution for possession for non-essential eviction actions for residential dwelling or small business premises units
- Prohibited for 120 days or 45 days after the emergency declaration has been lifted, whichever is sooner
- Governor may postpone the expiration for a period of time, which cannot go past 45 days after the emergency declaration is lifted
- Allows mortgagors to participate in counseling via synchronous, real-time video conference or phone calls in lieu of in person counseling, during the COVID-19 emergency, when obtaining a reverse mortgage loan
Foreclosures and Forbearance:
- Prohibits creditors or mortgagees from (1) causing notice of foreclosure sale to be published; (2) exercising a power of sale; (3) exercising a right of entry; (4) initiating a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure; or (5) filing a complaint to determine military status of a mortgagor
- Prohibited for 120 days or 45 days after the emergency declaration has been lifted, whichever is sooner
- Governor may postpone the expiration for a period of time, which cannot go past 45 days after the emergency declaration is lifted
- Requires creditors or mortgagees to grant a forbearance, if requested, of a mortgage loan for a residential property for a period of not more than 180 days
- Prohibits fees, penalties, or interest from accruing during that period
Healthcare Liability Protections
Legislation protecting healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and emergency medical technicians, as well as certain healthcare facilities from liability and suit when the care they provide is impacted by the COVID-19 emergency, was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Baker on April 17th. The legislation also provides protections for the healthcare workers staffing the Field Medical Stations at the DCU Center, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, and other locations.
Education Legislation - MCAS Waived
On April 10th, Governor Baker signed H4616, An Act to further address challenges faced by municipalities, school districts, and state authorities resulting from COVID-19. H4616 allows the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to modify the "competency determination," or graduation requirement related to the MCAS test and waives for the remainder of the academic year the state requirement that MCAS tests be administered. The bill further clarifies the current practice that any student that has not passed the MCAS in time for graduation will be able to retake in the future. The legislation additionally directs the Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner to push back the deadline for districts to submit their 3-year plan under the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Finally, the bill provides regional school districts with spending flexibilities should they not be able to approve a budget before the start of the new fiscal year. To view a section-by-section summary of this important legislation, please click
A decision from the Baker-Polito Administration on whether to keep schools closed through the end of the academic year is expected to be announced within the next few days. Planning is underway for how schools would operate if they return this spring and also for how summer school can run if social-distancing measures are still in place. On April 17th, Governor Baker said the "vast majority" of local leaders want students to return at some point this school year to settle in and talk about next school year and for competency testing to identify any gaps in learning tied to students being out of school for weeks. He said he recognized the challenges associated with returning students to school and understands the need for a decision soon and for clarity.
On April 17th, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that signature requirements for all candidates seeking to appear on the September 1st primary ballot be reduced by 50% in order to ensure easier access to the political process for office-seekers struggling to collect signatures from voters during the coronavirus pandemic. The court also extended the deadline for candidates for state and county offices to submit signatures to local election clerks from April 28th until May 5th and will allow for some use of electronic signatures.
Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault
On April 9th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the expansion of SafeLink, the Commonwealth's statewide, 24/7, toll-free and confidential domestic violence hotline to now include resources and support for survivors of sexual assault. This expansion of services will allow SafeLink to triage calls to local area rape crisis centers and create a centralized number for any survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault to call and receive services during the COVID-19 emergency. The hotline is designed for crisis intervention support for those who need assistance in safety planning both for themselves and their families. This resource is now available through the 2-1-1 line as an additional method for victims to access help and resources.
The SafeLink toll-free number is 877-785-2020. For the hearing-impaired, the SafeLink TTY number is 877-521-2601. Advocates are available in English and Spanish and can provide translation in more than 130 languages. If you are in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.
The MA House of Representatives has also launched an initiative to analyze state policies in order to assess existing and emerging needs of domestic violence victims and survivors living in MA. The House will engage outside experts and stakeholders to discuss policy options amid the rising risks faced by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault during the COVID-19 public health crisis. The initiative will focus on several issues including but not limited to shelter capacity, linking victims with services and resources in a timely manner, and addressing the challenges victims face accessing the courts system amid the public health emergency. In addition, the group will explore ways to develop statewide guidance on providing services, examine funding vehicles, and create guidance for House staff fielding calls from victims.
Department of Children and Families (DCF)
DCF works in partnership with families and communities to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. Child protection is an essential function of state government and during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department remains fully operational with social workers responding to emergencies 24 hours/day. DCF screens and responds to reports in which a child may have been or is at risk of being abused and/or neglected by a caregiver, or in which a child may have been or is at risk of sexual exploitation and/or human trafficking. You can find more information on DCF's definitions of abuse and neglect
DCF offices are operational, however, most DCF employees are teleworking and offices are closed to walk-in visitors. Please see the below resources regarding the protection of children, and resources to contact if you believe a child is in danger:
- If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
- During regular business hours, call the DCF office that serves the city or town in which the child lives, which can be found here.
- On nights, weekends, and holidays call the Child-at-Risk hotline at 800-792-5200.
- Family Resource Centers (https://www.frcma.org/) are located throughout MA and offer a variety of services to help families. Some FRCs are not physically open, but provide assistance to families by phone.
- New DCF website on COVID-19 resources and guidance here.
- The Kid's Net Online (resource for Foster Parents) is now online to serve families 24 hours/day, 7 days/week here. The After-Hours Helpline 800-486-3730.
- Resources for foster youth with special needs can be found here.
Foster Family Payments
On April 17th, Governor Baker announced the state would be making additional $100 monthly payments per child to the 4,500 foster families throughout the state caring for vulnerable children who are experiencing increased food, utility, and cleaning costs as a result of the closure of schools and daycares. The payments will be given for the months of April, May, and June, and benefit more than 6,700 children in the foster care system. The Governor said the amounts represent a 10-12% increase in state support for foster families.
Civil Legal Aid
When the COVID-19 crisis hit MA, civil legal aid organizations mobilized quickly to help low-income residents, who are disproportionately affected by the faltering economy, skyrocketing unemployment, housing insecurity, and other threats to people's health, safety, and stability. To qualify for civil legal aid, MA residents must have incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level. That is $32,750/year for a family of four. A comprehensive website
detailing legal rights in MA can be found
Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) Updates
- Professional credentials for School Bus Certificates, School Pupil Transport Licenses (7D), Inspector Licenses, Driving Instructor Licenses, and Driving School Licenses that have expired or are expiring between March 10th and April 30th will be extended for 90 days after the State of Emergency is lifted. These credentials are considered "active" as the RMV implements system changes to reflect that status in the near future.
- Commercial Driver's License (CDL) holders are now able to renew their licenses online if they are self-certified in the Non-Excepted Interstate (NI) category for medical certification.
- All passenger and motorcycle road tests (Class D and Class M) have been cancelled through Monday, May 4th.
- Learner's Permits expiring between March 1st, 2020, and April 30th, 2020 will continue to have an active status until 60 days after the printed expiration date - learner's permit holders need not worry immediately if their road test is cancelled.
- Commercial Driver's License (CDL) road tests are still being conducted; MA State Police manage CDL road tests and require anyone taking a CDL road test to bring and wear a mask or face covering for the entirety of the road test.
- The Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers are open exclusively to perform commercial transactions; reservations are now available and walk-ins are still accepted. Performing a commercial transaction at any other open RMV location will require a reservation. You can make a reservation here.
- A summary of newly announced (in bold) and existing extensions are included in this chart:
COVID-19 Public Resources Map
The COVID-19 Public Resources Map here shows the location of resources available to the public during the pandemic, such as food banks, houses of worship, and Project Bread site locations. Please note the map is not inclusive of all resources, and is only as accurate as the information that has been provided to MEMA.
How You Can Help Locally
Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services:
We are very 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 here.
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 here
and join me in donating to SYFS to help them survive in this critical time of crisis.
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.
Reliable Information Sources
For the most up to date case counts in the US and for general information regarding best practices during this crisis, please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
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.
They will not overload you with messages. The average so far has been a few texts a day.
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 staff the 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.
Contacting my Office
As a reminder, the State House itself 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
, my cell number is
, and my email is
. Anna's email is
and her cell number is
While this email is not exhaustive of all that the Commonwealth is undertaking to battle COVID-19, I hope that the information is relevant and helpful. My prior weekly emails can be found on my website,
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. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I can be of assistance.
11th Worcester District
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