February 3rd Information &
Resource Update
From MAPC: Vaccine Information for Employers

Our partners at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) are working, through their Public Health team, with state and local public health agencies on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations. The information below is being shared with business organizations around the Commonwealth. From MAPC:

We are at a moment where there is both an eagerness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as hesitancy in receiving a vaccine. While public health agencies are leading the charge to respond to the public’s spectrum of interest and concern with COVID-19, their work can be dramatically amplified – and vaccine participation accelerated - if employers help lead the effort. Never in history have employers witnessed just how much public health can impact their bottom line: new and continuing precautions, possible shutdowns, and curtailing of business as well as social and community events.

Working with public health agencies, employers can:
  • Increase transparency about the data, vaccine efficacy, and Massachusetts’s phased rollout plan in order to foster confidence in the process and safety of the vaccine. This includes being proactive and promoting factual information about vaccine safety.
  • Prepare to connect employees with vaccination sites when vaccines become more broadly available. Employers could prepare information about where to access vaccine clinics and consider setting up or accommodating a workplace vaccination site. If employees are getting a vaccine that requires a second dose, educate them about the importance of getting both doses and provide incentives to do so through offering employee recognition and rewards.
  • Make sure that people in your workforce do not have to choose between getting paid and getting vaccinated. Employers can reinforce or create policies that protect wages and provide paid time off for vaccination. For example, employers can recognize the challenges for employees who have children, who rely on public transportation, or who may be caregivers and facilitate vaccination during times that are both convenient and feasible.
Employers can model what it is like to be part of the solution to ending the pandemic and its effects in the Commonwealth. Taking action will pay dividends now by getting people back to work faster and reviving our local and state economy. In addition, employer-led work will build the infrastructure needed should we be required to overcome similar challenges in the future.

Below are examples of how several businesses have already taken steps. Although these are national businesses and may have resources not available to other businesses, they offer instances of how employers can signal trust in the vaccines and accommodate their employees in participating in vaccination efforts.

We are very interested in the stories you can share about you and your members work in Massachusetts so that we can inspire other employers around the Commonwealth. MAPC’s Public Health team can also be available to speak with you about this work or to capture your stories (Barry Keppard, Public Health Director, can be reached via email at this link).
OSHA Releases New Guidance for Employers on Mitigating & Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

Pursuant to an Executive Order signed by President Biden, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published new guidance for employers on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The new guidance is available in full online at this link. The new guidance is intended for planning purposes. Employers and workers should use this guidance to help identify risks of being exposed to and of contracting COVID-19 in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.

Employers should implement COVID-19 Prevention Programs in the workplace. The most effective programs engage workers and their union or other representatives in the program's development, and include the following key elements: conducting a hazard assessment; identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace; adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace; and implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns.

The guidance provides additional detail on key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19, starting with separating and sending home infected or potentially infected people from the workplace, implementing physical distancing, installing barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained, and suppressing the spread by using face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment (PPE), when necessary, improving ventilation, providing supplies for good hygiene, and routine cleaning and disinfection.

OSHA will continue to update this guidance over time to reflect developments in science, best practices, and standards, and will keep track of changes for the sake of transparency. In addition, OSHA expects to continue to update guidance relevant to particular industries or workplace situations over time.
604b Water Quality Management Grant Informational Call

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) plans to hold a pre-Request for Responses (RFR) informational conference call to discuss ideas for potential projects before the FFY2021 604b RFR is issued. It is recommend that all potential grant applicants participate in the call to discuss ideas for new projects.
The call will be held on February 10th at 10:00 AM. To participate you must register in advance; click here to register
For FY21, MassDEP will focus 604b grant funds on nonpoint source assessment and planning projects that result in the following:
  • Development of Watershed-based Plans (WBPs) for local watershed planning and to support future 319 Grant projects. An online tool to support development of WBPs can be found at this link.
  • Determination of the nature, extent and causes of water quality problems and determination of pollutant load reductions necessary to meet water quality standards
  • Development of Watershed-based Plans for 319 Grant Healthy Waterbody Projects to be used to guide watershed protection and management activities
  • Development of green infrastructure projects that manage wet weather to maintain or restore natural hydrology
  • Development of preliminary designs and implementation plans that will address water quality impairments in impaired watersheds.

MassDEP expects to have approximately $220,000 in grant funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to put towards new projects in FY21. Match is not required for 604b projects, however, either cash or in-kind services may increase the competitiveness of a proposal by demonstrating local commitment to the project. Projects are expected to utilize firms that qualify as Disadvantaged Minority Owned Businesses (4.2% budget) and Disadvantaged Women Owned Businesses (4.5% budget). Typically, successful proposals are in the $30,000 to $50,000 range and MassDEP makes 4 to 5 awards each year.

Eligible entities include:
  • Regional planning agencies
  • Councils of governments
  • Counties
  • Conservation districts
  • Cities and towns
Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact MassDEP before the RFR issue date to refine project ideas and obtain feedback. Click here for additional program information.
Please contact Patricia Arp, the Interim Section 604(b) Grant Program Coordinator, at patricia.arp@mass.gov with any questions or to discuss ideas and program objectives.
Municipal Government Response to COVID-19
in 495/MetroWest Panel Discussion on February 9th

The Energy and Sustainable Development Committee of the 495/MetroWest Partnership invites you to a special forum as part of its series on the impact of COVID-19 on our region, Municipal Government Response to COVID-19 in 495/MetroWest. This panel discussion will focus on how municipal governments across our region have responded to the pandemic.

Our panel of municipal leaders from across our service region will include:
  • Sgt. Ed Burman, Ashland Police Department
  • Bill Keegan, Foxborough Town Manager
  • Kristen Las, Shrewsbury Assistant Town Manager
  • John Mangiaratti, Acton Town Manager
  • Louise Miller, Wayland Town Administrator

Our panel will address topics that include COVID protocols put in place in their municipal operations, CARES funding allocations, permitting, efforts to support the local business community, working remotely while serving the public, and next steps with vaccination now in sight. Attendees will have an opportunity to submit questions for panelists to address.

This event will take place remotely via Zoom on Tuesday, February 9th at 8:30 AM; click here to register. The event is open to all interested persons, though registration is required.

The 495/MetroWest Partnership's Energy and Sustainable Development Committee focuses on issues related to land use, energy, brownfields remediation, low-impact development, broadband connectivity, placemaking, and environmental stewardship. Committee meetings and events are open to all interested participants.
Your Assistance Requested: Photos of Our Region!

Next month, the 495/MetroWest Partnership will be re-launching our organization's website. As part of that process, we are collecting photographs of landmarks, including natural resources, from across our region!

We are putting out a request for photographs of historic buildings, public spaces and facilities, trails, bodies of water and other open spaces, or other notable landmarks from any of the 36 municipalities in our service area. These photos may be selected for use on our revamped website, as well as in other Partnership collateral. Requirements:
  • Photos must depict locations within one of our 36 cities and towns
  • We are seeking larger photos, of at least 980px by 300px (larger photos welcome!)
  • You or your organization must be the owner of the photograph, and have the authority to authorize its use by a third party

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you:
Jason Palitsch, Executive Director
(774) 760-0495 x105

Thank you for your continued commitment to strengthening our region.