March 26th Coronavirus Update
Dear Neighbor,

I hope you and your family are safe and well. Please find today's update on Massachusetts coronavirus response efforts below.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all aspects of our lives and our economy, many Massachusetts residents are unfortunately finding themselves out of work and struggling to make ends meet. To help provide guidance to navigating the Commonwealth's network of supports, I have included a special section  in today's newsletter highlighting the different kinds of assistance available to individuals who may be unemployed or severely income-limited. This information is also available on my website.

To receive this daily newsletter in your inbox, 
sign up here . Past issues and additional resources can be found at . You can also check my Facebook page for more up-to-the-minute updates and communications. Overall, the state Dept. of Public Health website is the best source of accurate and up-to-date information and contains a wide-range of information and a likely source of answers to many of your questions.  

While the State House is closed to the public, my office continues to operate remotely. The best way to reach me or my staff at this busy time is via email at . We are also available by phone if necessary at 617-722-2680.  

For Residents Experiencing Job Loss or Loss of Income
COVID-19 is causing broad disruption to the economy which is affecting incomes of many residents and families. The following resources and supports are currently available. More assistance may become available if a federal stimulus program is passed.

Unemployment Resources:
  • Eligibility for State Unemployment Assistance
    • If your employer, public or private, has been paying into unemployment insurance, you are eligible.
    • In addition to becoming unemployed, you are also eligible for unemployment benefits if:
      • You are quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional
      • You leave employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection
      • You leave employment to care for a family member
    • No medical documentation is required to collect unemployment during this public health emergency, but you must be available for work as you are able, and be willing to work remotely.
    • Self-employed and independent contract workers, and some employees of non-profits, are not eligible for unemployment benefits. They will become eligible if the President makes a disaster unemployment declaration, which the Governor has formally requested. If passed, the federal stimulus legislation may also include provisions that make benefits available to this population.
    • Unemployment can be collected for up to 26 weeks in any 52-week period. If you are currently collecting unemployment, benefits cannot be extended beyond the 26-week period. If passed, the federal stimulus legislation may include provisions that extend this benefit period.
  • Applying for State Unemployment Assistance
    • It is recommended that you file your claim online at If you have questions you can:
      • Visit the department's COVID-19 website for up-to-date information. For a step-by-step tutorial for first time claimants, review this presentation.
      • Participate in a virtual town hall to have your questions about the unemployment system addressed. There is also an opportunity to ask individual questions. To sign up for a virtual town hall, visit this page.
      • Applicants needing additional help with filing or resolving claims can submit a contact request form online and a representative will be in touch with you.
      • Representatives are available at (617) 626-6338 but given the high volume of claims that are being filed, response times are much longer than usual. Staffing is being increased to meet this need, but all filers are encouraged to use online resources when possible.
  • Unemployment Changes in Response to COVID-19
    • All requirements for attending seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended.
    • Deadlines missed by employers and claimants due to impacts of COVID-19 may be excused under DUA's good cause provision.
    • Employers whose businesses are severely impacted by COVID-19 can request extensions for filing and paying unemployment contributions.
    • Worksearch requirements will be interpreted to allow claimants affected by COVID-19 to collect benefits.
    • All appeal hearings will be held only by telephone.
    • Once a claim is approved, the one-week waiting period for payments has been eliminated.
Additional supports for qualifying individuals and families
  • SNAP benefits: Nutrition assistance is available to low-income individuals and families.  Generally speaking, the maximum net income for a family of 4 (after calculating deductions and exemptions) is $2,146/month. To check your eligibility use the DTA quick screening tool.
    • Applicants should apply online. In-person applications were suspended on March 18th.
    • During COVID-19, identify verification and termination of income determinations have been suspended and self-declarations are allowed in certain cases.
    • Individuals who were due for recertification or renewal of benefits March-May are granted a 6-month extension.
  • Temporary Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC): Low-income individuals with children (or pregnant with children) may be eligible for additional cash assistance.
    • Eligibility is determined by income and assets and may be checked easily online. Generally speaking, maximum gross income for a family of 4 is $731/month.
    • Applicants are encouraged to apply online if possible (preferred) or to contact their local DTA office.
  • Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC): Those over 65 years old and not receiving Social Security, are disabled and unable to work, or caring for a person with a disability, may be eligible for additional cash assistance.
    • Eligibility is determined by income, housing situation, and assets and may be checked easily online. Generally speaking, maximum gross income for a family of 4 that does not receive other assistance is $578 per month.
    • Applicants are encouraged to apply online if possible (preferred) or to contact their local DTA office.
    • For more information about any of these programs visit
Housing resources
  • Affordable housing: The Commonwealth is urging all public and private affordable housing operators to suspend non-essential evictions, and the state has moved to temporarily suspend termination of state and federal rental vouchers.
    • The state Housing Court has ordered all that non-emergency evictions and foreclosures be re-scheduled to after April 21, 2020
  • New Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) expansion: The state has authorized $5 million in new spending for its RAFT rental assistance program which provides up to $4,000 per household (one time) to maintain housing stability or secure new arrangements. Regional agencies that administer the program can be found online. Eligible families must be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and earning less than 50% of the area median income.
  • Foreclosures and mortgages:
    • The state Division of Banks has issued guidance to financial institutions and mortgage lenders to postpone foreclosures for at least 60 days and to forgive late mortgage payments for at least 60 days, in addition to other flexibility measures.
    • Those affected and concerned about payment or foreclosure should contact their mortgage provider as soon as possible.
    • The Division of Banks provides online resources for distressed homeowners as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Utility payments: The Department of Public Utilities has ordered all utility distribution companies to suspend shutoffs of water, gas, and electric service for non-payment for the duration of the state of emergency.
  • Insurance Payments: The state Division of Insurance has ordered insurance carriers in Bulletin 2020-05 to offer maximum flexibility to customers during the state of emergency, including relaxing due dates for premium payments, waiving late fees, and reducing administrative paperwork requirements.
  • Visit:
Health Insurance payments during COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Health Coverage:
    • All commercial insurers and the state Group Insurance Commission (GIC) are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services.
    • Insurers must cover COVID-19 related treatment and testing without requiring cost-sharing of any kind - such as co-pays and coinsurance - for testing and treatment.
    • Insurers cannot require prior authorization for these services.
    • Full guidance from the Division of Insurance to commercial health insurers can be found online here.
  • MassHealth members:
    • MassHealth coverage will be protected for all members throughout the duration of the state of emergency. MassHealth will not end coverage for any member until at least one month after the national emergency ends.  
    • A detailed list of Frequently Asked Questions for MassHealth members can be found online.
Tax filing
  • The federal tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15. More information can be found here.
  • The state Department of Revenue is working on a plan to address the filing deadline discrepancy and has posted temporary guidance online.
Nutrition assistance
  •  Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline continues to have up-to-date information on food resources, including new school sites, food pantries, and federal programs. Staff can also help callers with SNAP applications over the phone. Call volume has increased significantly over the past week, reflecting the increased need. The number is 800-645-8333 and we are open 8am-7pm, Mon-Fri and 10am-2pm on Saturdays throughout the crisis. 
  • If you have a child who normally receives free or reduced lunch at school, there are many sites across Massachusetts providing lunch pickup during school closures. You can visit the Meals4Kids website for a full list of locations.
Pending state and federal policy:
  • Federal stimulus package: More information to come.
  • Municipal tax deadline modifications:  Pending legislation will allow municipalities to waive late payment fees for municipal tax payments and extend bill payments from April 1 to June 1. It also allows municipalities to extend property tax exemptions and deferrals to June 1.
New Updates as of March 26th
Below is a summary of the most recent efforts to respond to the wide range of needs in our communities.  For a summary of previously issued guidance and state restrictions related to the coronavirus epidemic, visit . For previous updates visit
Coronavirus Testing and Response
  • There are 2,417 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 219 hospitalizations and 25 deaths as of today. Confirmed case numbers are expected to rise as testing capacity increases.
  • 23,621 tests have been conducted by the State Public Health Laboratory and private testing organizations - a significant increase that reflects a large effort on the part of the state and private entities to increase testing capacity for Massachusetts residents.
  • DPH has released a new messaging tool called called "AlertsMA" will allow residents to subscribe to real-time notifications by texting the keyword COVIDMA to 888-777.  After signing up, state and public health officials can send short messages and links to information directly to a resident's cell phone or other mobile device.
Health Care
  • Last week, MassBio launched the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency SupplyHub to help bring in additional supplies to our state's healthcare institutions so they can continue to test and treat patients with COVID-19. Over 400 companies have already agreed to donate, but the need for equipment is still significant. To donate, visit this page.
  • Google has launched a centralized website offering education, prevention, and other resources. Visit to learn more. 
  • The Governor ordered the extension of the closure for all public and private schools, and all non-emergency childcare programs, until May 4 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The orders apply to both K-12 and early education programs.
  • As part of this effort, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has released new guidance for schools and school districts on remote learning recommendations and best practices. This will assist educators and families develop a sustainable model for continuing remote learning at home throughout the duration of the crisis.
Small Business:
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration announced its expansion of its Express Bridge Loan pilot program to provide short-term emergency loans up to $25,000 for disaster-related purposes. This week, the SBA has expanded program eligibility to all small businesses impacted by COVID-19. For more information, review the online program guide.
Other Items of Interest
  • The Department of Labor has released its first round of guidance for the expansion of federal paid leave programs under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. You can review employer requirementsemployee rights, or frequently asked questions online.
  • Pending municipal and school district legislation has advanced to the House Committee on Ways and Means. The House continues to invite feedback from school and municipal officials on the provisions of the bill.
All of our towns now have centralized COVID-19 resource page with resources , updates, and alerts regarding town services.

How You Can Help (Updated)

Holliston Youth and Family Services requests your support of the Community Action Fund, which provides emergency assistance to those affected by COVID-19. To learn more or to donate, visit: 


Baypath Elder Services runs many of our local Meals on Wheels elder nutrition programs, and they are looking for drivers to help deliver meals.  If you are able to help, email Denise Menzdorf at Please indicate which town you live in and what days/hours you're able to help.


Information on our local food pantries can be found below. The most pressing need right now is  cash donations to ensure that food dropoff and delivery do not inadvertently contribute to the spread of the virus.

Reminder: "Stay at Home" Advisory In Place
Due to evolving spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, Governor Baker has directed the Department of Public Health to issue a stay at home advisoryResidents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary activities for two-week time period ending April 7 at noon. Residents over 70 years of age or with underlying health conditions, who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19, should limit social interactions with other people unless absolutely necessary. 
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Contact My Office
State House Room 127
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: (617) 722-2680
Email: Carolyn.Dykema@MAHouse.Gov