UPDATE FROM STATE REP. KATE HOGAN

COVID-19 Crisis in Massachusetts

State Rep. Kate Hogan, 3rd Middlesex District
Bolton Hudson Maynard Stow
Dear Friends,

I hope that you - and those you care about - are healthy and safe.
I was honored to participate in a modified version of Stow’s traditional Memorial Day ceremony on Monday.  This year we did not walk in formation from Center School to gather at the cemetery amidst our fallen heroes. After services, we did not proceed to the Memorial Statue and we missed our annual reading of the Gettysburg Address by a student from Nashoba High School. The pandemic forced us to cancel all of of our traditional Memorial Day ceremonies in the district.   While we were not able to stand together, those of us were in attendance stood in place of the missing. We read the list of our town’s fallen -- a solemn occasion that gives us time to reflect upon and honor each of the individuals who left us to serve our country and never came home. We honored their devotion, their commitment, and their sacrifice. We remembered.   
Massachusetts continues its phased reopening and this week hair salons, barber shops, pet groomers, car washes, retail stores and recreational marijuana shops (curbside pickup only) will reopen. Office buildings can reopen at 25% capacity (Boston office buildings will reopen June 1) and some recreational sites will reopen. As we continue to reopen, we will do so when the data says the time is right and not according to specific dates. That means the reopening depends on each of us doing our part to stem the spread of the coronavirus. We must continue to practice social distance, wear face masks in public, and wash hands. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, stay at home and contact telehealth through www.buoy.com .

I welcome your feedback on the reopening and its effects. Also, if you have questions or need assistance, please contact me at  kate.hogan@mahouse.gov  or 617-722-2199.  This email and phone number are the most efficient ways to contact me right now and the best way to ensure a prompt response to your inquiry.  I also post updates daily on Facebook.

Best,
Signature
Kate Hogan
State Representative
Third Middlesex District
(617) 722-2199
MASSACHUSETTS UPDATES
& NEWS FROM THE STATE HOUSE
As of May 26, there are 93,693 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 6,473 deaths from COVID-19.   More than 56,338 people have been quarantined and 23,789 are currently undergoing monitoring/quarantined. 545,481 Massachusetts residents have been tested for COVID-19 by the State Public Health Laboratory, hospitals and commercial laboratories. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health  shares updated numbers on its website  each day.

Reopening in Massachusetts Beginning May 25 The Governor’s four-phased approach outlines the cautious start to reopening specific workplaces as well as required safety protocols and guidance. Beginning May 25, the following businesses may reopen:

Hair Salons and Barber Shops  by appointment only

Pet Grooming  by appointment only
 
Office Spaces  at max 25% capacity

Car Washes  for exterior wash only
 
Laboratories

Recreational Activities  including beaches, parks, drive-in theaters, some athletic fields and courts, many outdoor adventure activities, most fishing, hunting, and boating, outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves & public installations

Houses of worship, manufacturing and construction business were opened with restrictions on May 18.

For more detail on what is permitted to reopen and when, go to: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts

Expanding Outdoor Dining at Local Restaurants  I was proud to file legislation earlier this month to temporarily add outdoor seating at Massachusetts restaurants while ensuring that social distancing guidelines are enforced in order to expand a restaurant's existing occupant capacity to increase potential revenue.  HD 5076 An Act to Expand Access to Patio Dining  authorizes cities and towns to temporarily allow restaurants with the outdoor space necessary to expand their seating capacity to do so, without completing the onerous licensing process typically mandated by the ABCC and the town/city of operation. The legislation came from discussions with Dick Braga and the Hudson Business Investment District (BID) as we work together in creating paths to economic recovery.



For concerns about a non-compliant workplace  the first step is to contact your local Board of Health. After contacting your local board of health, you may contact the Department of Labor Standards (DLS) through their hotline: (508) 616-0461 x 9488 or by sending an email to  safepublicworkplacemailbox@mass.gov . DLS will call or email you if an investigation is determined to be warranted within 72 hours if an investigation is warranted.

Share feedback or suggestions about the reopening plan If you have feedback about a particular business classification, suggestions for changes or other feedback, please submit your comments through this portal: https://www.mass.gov/forms/submit-questions-and-comments-about-reopening-Massachusetts

Coronavirus Relief Fund for Cities & Towns Last week, the Baker-Polito Administration announced plans to distribute up to $502 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CvRF) to cities and towns across the Commonwealth for eligible COVID-19 response costs.
  • Click here to access guidance on the formal distribution process for these funds
  • Click here to access a letter to Municipal Executive Officers on CvRF from the Secretary of Administration & Finance
  • Click here to view a webinar on CvRF hosted by A&F and the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA)

Health Connector Updates The Massachusetts Health Connector is the state’s health insurance exchange or marketplace, which provides access to affordable, quality health insurance for residents and small businesses of Massachusetts. In response to the unprecedented impacts of the coronavirus, the Health Connector has modified policies and practices to assist residents in maintaining health insurance coverage, whether they are existing members or enrolling with the Health Connector for the first time. The Health Connector’s Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in health insurance coverage has been extended through June 23 rd , which means people can enroll in health insurance without needing a qualifying life event. The bulletin providing more information on this extension can be found at https://www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/rules-and-regulations/AdminBulletin04-20.pdf

RMV Updates The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has implemented further extensions to the renewal timelines for expiring motor vehicle inspection stickers, passenger plate registrations, professional credentials, and driver's licenses and learner's permits, including Commercial Driver’s Licenses and Commercial Permits (CDLs / CLPs). Details about the new changes to expiration extensions and other RMV services can be found at: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information
MAIN STREET UPDATES
In the News:
  • Maynard Revolving Museum and ArtSpace “Corona/Crown Project” was featured in Boston Globe and WBUR

Around the District:


  • The Maynard Cultural Council is hosting the First Annual Maynard Short Film Festival. Submissions will celebrate Maynard and can feature any type of family-friendly style: storytelling, conceptual, humor, educational, contemplative, expressive, adventure…but must be between one and five minutes in length. All Maynard community members, of all ages, are invited to contribute. Please pre-register by emailing Andy Moerlein at andymoerlein@gmail.com. All work will be submitted by posting your film publicly to social media (YouTube, vimeo, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) and tag #MaynardFilmFest. Over $200 in prizes (Fine Arts Theatre movie coupons) will be awarded in several age and content categories. Finalists will be judged by members of the Maynard Cultural Council and then submitted to the public for vote. The first awards will close for judging June 1.

  • DIY Repairs A First-Ever Virtual Bolton and Maynard Repair Cafe, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Nashoba Valley, is set for 12-2 pm on June 20. Attendees will receive free household-repair advice via Zoom. To sign up as a guest with a broken item, visit https://tinyurl.com/Guests-with-Broken-items. To sign up as a fixer or as an observer, visit https://tinyurl.com/Fixers-or-Observers. The registration deadline is June 6.
  • The Hudson Public Library is reopening for curbside pickup (click on image to enlarge or download)
Upcoming Town Meetings & Elections
       Bolton:
  • Town Meeting will be held June 22
  • Town Election will be held June 29
       Hudson:
  • Town Meeting will be held June 22
  • Town Election will be held June 29
       Maynard:
  • Town Meeting will be held June 13 at 1 pm at the Fowler Middle School
  • Town Election will be held June 23. All Maynard voters will vote at the Fowler Middle School, 3 Tiger Drive, Maynard, MA 01754. The polling hours will be 7:00AM until 8:00PM.
       Stow:
  • Town Meeting will be held June 22
  • Town Election will be held June 27

All voters are eligible to vote by mail with either an absentee or early voting ballot. You may apply now for your mail-in early ballot at:  https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepdf/2020-Municipal-Early-Ballot-Application.pdf  Ballots for the original election date will still be valid. If you have already submitted an absentee ballot, that ballot will be counted.
UPDATES ON BUSINESS & FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
Unemployment Benefits Update Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation ( PEUC) provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits to an individual who has exhausted all rights to any regular unemployment compensation and who meets other eligibility requirements of the CARES Act. Claimants may be eligible for these federal benefits and these benefits are now available through UI Online. Please visit the following link for more information: www.mass.gov/peuc

Application for PPP Loan Forgiveness The Small Business Administration (SBA) has released the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application and detailed instructions for the application. You can find them here .

Use of CPA Funds for Emergency Rental Assistance I encourage towns that have Community Preservation Act funds to look at them as potential sources of revenue for establishing emergency rental assistance funds to address housing insecurity among vulnerable populations. The Mass Housing Partnership has published guidelines for doing so.
  • The Hudson Affordable Housing Trust has developed a temporary rental assistance program to help income-eligible residential renters in Hudson who have been affected economically by COVID-19. The program provides up to three months rental assistance (future or arrearage payments beginning 4/1/20) in the amount of $500 per month to eligible households whose income has been reduced to less than 80% of Area Median Income because of Covid-19. Applications are due June 30 and are available online at: https://www.townofhudson.org/affordable-housing-trust For more information, call (978) 562-2989 Applications can be submitted by email to kjohnson@townofhudson.org or by mail to: Town of Hudson Affordable Housing Trust c/o Planning and Community Development Department 78 Main Street Hudson, MA 01749
  • The Stow Community Preservation Committee will hold their annual public hearing via Zoom web conferencing on Monday June 8, 2020 at 7:00 pm to hear feedback on CPA funding priorities and listen to comments pertaining to the latest draft of the Stow Community Preservation Plan pursuant to MGL Chapter 44B. The purpose of the meeting is to assess the needs, possibilities, and resources of the town in the areas of historic preservation, open space and recreation, and affordable housing. A copy of the draft is located on the CPC website or you can enter this link into your web browser (https://www.stow-ma.gov/community-preservation-committee/files/draft-sto...). Call in instructions will be posted on the agenda which you can also find on the CPC website.

Federal Student Loan payments US DOE has suspended Federal Student Loan payments and waived interest through September 30, 2020. The suspension is automatic. Borrowers do not have to request it.

Keep Americans Connected Pledge The Keep Americans Connected Pledge is an FCC initiative that encourages broadband and telephone service providers to waive late fees, open up hotspots to the public, and maintain connectivity irrespective of COVID-19 payment complications until at least June 30th.
  • VerizonAT&T, and Sprint have all signed on and are also all adding more data to their plans, free of charge.
  • For international long-distance customers, Sprint is also offering complimentary international calling rates from the US to countries defined by the CDC as level 3. They are also sharing their global backbone performance through IP Network Performance.
  • Both Verizon and Sprint are offering payment plans, taking effect after June for those who are unable to pay for their services or devices due to COVID-19. This is in addition to not shutting off services for those unable to pay (though you do have to sign up through their respective websites).
  • Comcast's International Essentials Programs which typically costs $10 a month for low-income households, is offering the program for free for new customers through June 30. They have also permanently increased the internet speeds offered for the program.
  • Charter's broadband adoption program, Spectrum Internet Assist, will continue its free offering of the program as well as new eligible families for the next two months. The provider is also offering up to 100Mbps internet speeds for free, including in-home Wi-Fi, for households with teachers, K-12, or college students.
UPDATES ON PERSONAL SAFETY ISSUES

Homeless COVID-19 Isolation Sites Regional isolation and recovery sites located in hotels across the Commonwealth are set up for individuals who are homeless AND who are COVID-19 positive OR have a medical provider’s note recommending isolation and can safely isolate without medical supervision and hospital level care. These locations cannot support individuals who need assistance with Activities of Daily Living or who need the level of care provided at a Skilled Nursing Facility. For shelter providers located outside Boston, please call 617-367-5150 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The intake coordinator will determine eligibility, register an individual for the program, and have the guest placed and transported to the nearest Isolation and Recovery location that has availability. For shelter providers located in Boston please call 617-534-5050 to access sites in Boston.

MA COVID-19 Test Site Locator MEMA, in coordination with the COVID-19 Command Center, has launched a website featuring an interactive map with information about COVID-19 test sites in Massachusetts, including contact information, address, hours of operation, website link, type of site, insurance coverage, and other important information. It also includes a downloadable full list of test sites. All information is sourced from site operators and healthcare providers. Information continues to evolve quickly, so those looking to be tested are encouraged to contact sites prior to arrival. Many sites may also require pre- screening, a referral, and/or an appointment. Click here for the test site locator.  

Protect Against Spam & Fraud Massachusetts stands out as having some of the strongest Consumer Protection laws within its Chapter 93A scheme, including broad protections and definitions, expansive authority to chief law enforcement officers, and allowing civil and class actions brought by individuals. Consumers are urged to report unreasonably high prices of consumer goods to the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office by calling 617-727-8400 or by filing a complaint online via the AG's website.

Following are a few more resources to protect against fraud:
  • Debt Collection Regulations On March 27th, the AGO filed Emergency Debt Collection Regulations for the State of Emergency. The regulations state it is an unfair or deceptive act for any creditor or debt collector to seek legal remedies for debt, such as initiating, filing, or threatening to file any new collection lawsuit or seek an equitable remedy (such as garnishment, seizures, or repossessions). Exceptions include actions for loans secured by mortgages on real property or for a regulated utility. The regulations also include prohibition on outbound debt collection calls by debt collectors and debt buyers. Exceptions include informing a consumer of a rescheduled court appearance and for debts secured by a mortgage on real property. On April 13th, the AG's Office determined that emergency funds that will be issued to consumers through the CARES Act are exempt from seizure or garnishment by creditors under Massachusetts's law. The AG's Office also signed onto a multistate letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury asking the agency to protect CARES Act payments like other government relief programs and ensure the funds go to individuals and families, as was intended. 

  • To avoid Charity Scams/Mutual Aid Networks, always make informed decisions on the charities or groups you are looking to give to. Do your research into Mutual Aid Networks in your area before participating. Visit www.bigdoorbrigade.com for a list of known networks, or how to start your own.

  • Robocalls & Scams Scammers are taking advantage of anxieties surrounding COVID-19, and may call offering "coronavirus kits", "COVID-19 packages", or offer Medicare benefits surrounding the virus. However, they will also ask you to verify personal information, such as your bank account or social security number. You can and should report these instances to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
  • Scammers may also pretend to be calling from the IRS, Census, or social security and claim you are eligible for relief, cash payment, or that there is a check waiting for you. They may ask for money, personal information, or both. The surest sign of a scam is when you are asked to pay with cash, use a gift card, wire money, or use cryptocurrency (i.e. bitcoin).
  • Remember, the best thing to do in the event of a scam call is to hang up. Do not press any numbers.
  • Additionally, local police are reporting an uptick in the area of a common scam where a fake attorney contacts a family member, often a senior citizen stating a child, or grandchild has been arrested or involved in an accident. These scammers will then request a large sum of money to bail, or secure release of this person. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be an attorney or bail-bondsman please contact your local police department who will assist you in sorting out the matter.

  • Stimulus Checks Over the past few weeks, many citizens have received stimulus checks from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These payments provide critical relief for many Americans, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused significant economic disruption and put many out of work. In these uncertain times, the IRS is urging taxpayers to be cautious and keep an eye out for a potential rise in phishing scams. Benefits.gov encourages citizens to stay smart, and read our new article, "Watch for Coronavirus Related Scams". 
  • A consumer who believes their economic impact payments have landed in the hands of an identity thief can report it to the FTC and the IRS at the same time by going to www.identitytheft.gov to complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) and submit it electronically to the IRS. IdentityTheft.gov will also give you a recovery plan with steps you can take to help protect yourself from further identity theft.